A brumby is a wild horse. Early white arrivals bought horses and there have been wild populations in many parts of Australia ever since. The role of these horses in history, both during war and peace, has given them a special place in many Australian hearts.
But their rights are equal to any other introduced animals and are covered in our Introduced Animals policy.
Late 2016 a Draft Plan of Management was released by the Department of Environment and Heritage. The plan proposes to reduce, primarily by shooting, an estimated population of 6000 horses down to 600 within 20 years.
The number of 5400 slaughtered horses has been miscalculated since, over this period, many hundreds if not thousands of foals will be born to the existing population, resulting in deaths well in excess of 5400. Irrespective of the supposed humaneness, one must ask would the wider community accept the needless killing of up to 6000 healthy wild horses?
The essence of the plan is the goal of population reduction, with an estimated figure of 6000 horses being present in the park. The plan clearly states a reduction not in percentage terms of population but of defined numbers, those being a reduction from 6000 to 600 within a 20-year period. Given the significance of the population estimate as one of the justifiable reasons for the slaughter, NPWS should be able to demonstrate confidence in these numbers.
The very reference review of the plan by government discussed the lack of confidence in the actual population estimates and the methodology used. The report is quoted “we cannot, at this stage, draw rigorous scientific conclusions about how numbers and population trends are changing over time, or how they may differ in different parts of the park. This is because of differences in approach between the various surveys.”
The draft plan’s position relating to the negative environmental impacts of wild horses to be both heavily skewed and not scientifically convincing. It provides a table of alleged positive and negative impacts of brumbies. However, it fails to recognise that there are no simple positive or negative impacts; that every impact has numerous, complex positive and negative aspects.
Evolution is a dynamic process and is constantly changing. Species of animals living in a particular place or habitat gradually change as does the ecosystem in which they live. Horses have been present in the mountains for approximately 180 years. Over this time the horse has adapted to the mountain environment and the environment has adapted to the horse. This process is known as ‘ecological succession, which is the gradual process by which ecosystems change and develop over time. Nothing remains the same and habitats are constantly changing.
Fertility control has been successfully applied to wild horses, deer and zoo populations for over two decades, beginning in 1996 with application to elephants in Kruger Park . It is considered to be a more humane , and often more effective, form of wild animal management as lethal methods, including shooting, are not precise, may result in prolonged suffering, and necessarily result in successive culling campaigns.
Unlike killing, which simply provides niches for younger, more fertile individuals to fill, fertility control buys time. Older infertile animals continue to hold their territory while every other animal in the population can be rendered infertile. Unlike killing, fertility control, as long as it is carried out using gentle and humane techniques, will involve no cruelty.
The Animal Justice Party does not support any method of lethal control.
In addition, from an animal welfare standpoint, we do not support practices such as roping, chasing or brumby running in any way, shape or form. Our recommendation is that if brumby numbers and adverse environmental impacts can be justifiably proven, then the best course of action is:
- The continuation of supported passive trapping and rehoming programs with a targeted goal of increased transparency, communication and support of approved rehoming groups. This is to include predetermined annual quotas so as rescue groups can plan for incoming horses and allocate future facilities and homing arrangements to accommodate.
- Any proposed population reduction is to be conducted entirely by systematic fertility control. This program should be implemented immediately, and meaningful research into effective large-scale and humane fertility control undertaken.
- Sick or injured horses who are unlikely to survive in either the wild or re-homed to properties should be humanely euthanized in situ immediately upon capture and examination.
- No wild horse, under any circumstances, should be transported to any slaughterhouse.
- Further research and studies be conducted as well as small scale trials of more accurate and reliable population surveying.
- Utilisation of the wider community to provide on the ground information on the movement, population dynamics and wellbeing of any wild horse mobs. This could utilise technologies such as apps for identifying individual horses, their preferred grazing areas and health.
- An independent scientific review be conducted into the accuracy and methodology utilised to estimate alleged environmental impacts, taking into account other variables that can impact research outcomes, such as other anthropogenic environmental changes, previous livestock impacts and climate change.
- Further research and peer reviewed studies are to be conducted in regards to both the negative and positive impacts wild horse have on specific ecosystems.
- Support programs that educate the public on the cruel and environmentally negative impacts of killing brumbies. Education should focus on their beauty and historic significance.
- Brumbies to be given heritage status and be afforded the protection that this status entails.