Please find below response Submissions to Wild Horse draft Plan 2016 We thank everyone who has taken the time to make a submission and share it with the general Public As they will not be displayed for Public scrutiny we believe in the cause and feel this is an important part of the way forward Thankyou Lynette Sutton
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Establishing a scientific basis for the optimal management of wild horses by BWG, over 1 year ago
We are a recently established veterinary Brumby Working Group (BWG), formed in order to give the veterinary profession better representation in issues relating to wild horse management in Australia. Our aim is to become a central resource of scientific information about wild horses and their management, in order to be able to provide independent, evidence-based data upon which to base decisions about the management of Australia’s unique wild horses. Stated another way, we wish the decision making process to be more scientific and based on peer-reviewed information, rather than anecdotal un-refereed reports. Concerns regarding negative environmental and ecological impacts by horses are the key reasons given for justifying the need to drastically reduce wild horse numbers in Kosciuszko National Park. Superficially, there appears to be good evidence for these environmental concerns, and with the information provided the majority of the general public would be convinced of this. On closer evaluation, however, there is actually very little peer-reviewed literature on which to base any decisions. Robust objective scientific data relies on independent, peer-reviewed articles published in respected scientific journals. Many reports currently available base their conclusions on other reports, based on anecdote and personal impressions, rather than case-control data generated by unbiased scientists and subsequently scrutinized by anonymous reviewers chosen by an impartial scientific editor. Thus, there is actually little scientific documentation of the negative environmental impacts described. As a result, the whole justification of any form of culling rests on questionable foundations. In contradistinction, there may be ecological benefits derived from the wild horse population and this possibility does not appear to have been discussed or evaluated in an Australian context. Furthermore, whilst there is a lack of robust scientific data on the negative environmental impacts of wild horses, there are good suggestions in well respected, peer reviewed scientific journals about the positive environmental impacts of wild horse populations in other countries. We think it prudent to evaluate potential benefits of wild horses in an Australian setting before making drastic decisions. Despite culling of feral horses being commonplace in Australia, there is also no scientific evidence that culling is effective in achieving ecological benefits. Furthermore there has been no scientific evaluations into potential negative ecological impacts of the process of culling itself both in the short and longer term. It is perhaps even naïve to conclude that environmental impacts are directly related to total population numbers since population dynamics (age, sex ratios, individual group sizes, interactions between groups of other horses and other animal species, distribution and movement etc), are all factors that are likely to influence the horses’ interactions with the environment as well as with other species. The act of performing a cull, along with the sudden drastic reduction in total numbers is likely to significantly affect population dynamics, and thus in the longer term, culling may not prove to be of ecological benefit. As veterinary scientists we have broad experience evaluating scientific evidence and the environmental arguments underpinning the necessity to drastically reduce the wild horse population are neither scientifically robust, nor balanced. Considering any decisions regarding culling are likely to involve 1000’s of lives, such an important decision should only be made based on evidence of sufficient quality that has withstood objective scientific scrutiny. The 2013 publication by the National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences, ‘Using Science to Improve the BLM Wild Horse and Burro Program’, a scientific review of wild horse management in the United States, provides a detailed review, critique and scientific evaluation of wild horse management in the US, as it was recognised that more science was required upon which to base management decisions. We have not sighted any scientific evidence for the basis of any decisions regarding the management of horses in Kosciuszko National Park and advise that more science is urgently required before critical decisions are made. The welfare of the horses during any horse management program needs to be a priority. However, there is a lack of knowledge and education in some groups, and what some people interpret as good welfare is not always in accord with accepted best practice internationally. It is critical that animal welfare expertise is fully utilized in all decisions that impact on equine welfare. A thorough independent appraisal with an objective assessment of the impacts of any proposed methods on the horses’ welfare is imperative. Independent veterinary bodies with specific expertise and credentials in animal welfare should participate in all such assessments so that health and welfare can be assessed without bias. Ideally this should involve veterinarians or scientists with higher degrees and qualifications in animal welfare, and ideally, a track record of peer-reviewed publications in this discipline area. It is also important to recognize that the first decision that has the largest impact on welfare is the necessity to remove/kill horses, and the number to be removed/killed. Therefore our first points are of fundamental importance if animal welfare is to be considered a priority. Throughout Australia, there is considerable variation in the geographical areas in which wild horse populations reside, and in terms of wild horse populations themselves viz. population size, areas that horses roam, terrain and accessibility. All these factors impact on the effectiveness of various methods of population control and their effect on horse welfare. It is important, therefore, for Kosciuszko National Park to recognize that methods which may be considered ‘the most humane’ in one region of Australia will not necessarily be the most humane for the horses residing in Kosciuszko National Park where the terrain is more challenging. There is wide discussion amongst different groups as to how humane different methods of removing/culling horses are. However, there is a significant lack of scientific evidence of the welfare implications of all currently used methods of population control. Therefore, opinions need to be carefully scrutinized, because irrespective of whether opinions are provided by expert or lay person, they are only opinions unless backed up by objective, verifiable, scientific evidence. In evidence-based science, where robust scientific data is not available, the next accepted alternative is expert opinion. However, what constitutes an ‘expert’ also needs to be carefully evaluated, if a personal and potentially biased opinion is to be avoided. A panel or group of ‘experts’ in a given scholarly discipline is more highly regarded and more intellectually robust than evidence provided by a single individual. With reference to wild horse management in Australia, there are no individuals who can be regarded as experts in this field, and there is too much opportunity for bias, so this is a particular area where a group rather than an individual’s opinion is more appropriate. We therefore strongly promote the involvement of independent veterinary welfare groups such as ours in wild horse management plans in order to ensure that welfare standards are optimized. We would hope that Kosciuszko National Park may be the first to utilize the advice of independent veterinary welfare groups in their management plan. There are significant animal welfare concerns with current methods of trapping horses and travelling long distances to be slaughtered, and this is not considered to be ethically acceptable. Although currently banned in NSW, the discussion of aerial slaughter is also being revisited. Whilst we recognize that aerial shooting may be the most humane available method of large scale population control in some specific situations (eg when thousands of horses are starving in a drought and the country is open and flat), it can also have disastrous welfare implications in others, including undue distress on large numbers of horses and the inevitability of non-instantaneous death or severe, non-lethal wounding. There is additionally the well documented issue of orphaned foals left to die. The terrain in which this method is used, together with the skill of the shooters and pilots, are likely to have the strongest impacts on the horses’ welfare and therefore very careful evaluation of these factors is critical in any situations in which aerial shooting is being considered. We strongly object to the statement that is frequently arising in these discussions that ‘Aerial shooting is considered by some technical experts and stakeholders to be the most humane and cost-effective technique where control over extensive areas of rugged terrain is required’ as this is a statement unsupported by factual independent literature. Furthermore, there is a lack of transparency regarding who these ‘technical experts’ are, their credentials and experience, and the evidence by which they have reached this conclusion. As previously stated, there are no published peer-reviewed, independent scientific studies evaluating the humaneness of aerial shooting in horses, and so any statement such as those are highly subjective opinions, based perhaps on misinformation, but certainly not based on scientifically verifiable data. Given that the technique affects the welfare of thousands of horses, this requires very careful consideration. None of these statements come from veterinary organisations with welfare expertise, and it would be disappointing if Kosciuszko National Park were to accept these statements without seeking further opinion from veterinary bodies with such expertise. There is one very recent study assessing the humaneness of aerial shooting that was performed at Tempe Down in the Northern Territory. I believe that it is this study that is referred to in the Kitchen Table discussion guide; ‘Recent research has shown that aerial shooting conducted in appropriate circumstances is very humane with minimal cumulative stress on an animal due to short pursuits and a rapid time to death’. This is an extremely misleading statement to the general public. Firstly, to use the phrase ‘very humane’ is inappropriate and misinterpreting the findings of the study. The study is specifically about the humanness to the individual horse with this method of killing; but what is humane about killing thousands of horses in the first place? This study needs very careful interpretation. Firstly, to the best of our knowledge, it is not published in scientific peer reviewed literature and therefore has not been scientifically scrutinized. It was not clear that there was not bias in some areas, such as the selection of horses that received post-mortem examination. The methodology is open to criticism and there are some fundamental concerns, such as the definition used for ‘instantaneous death’. Scientific criticality and careful interpretation is therefore imperative before reaching any conclusions from this study. Even if the conclusions of this study were scientifically robust, it is crucial to recognize that the terrain in which this study (arid flat desert) was performed is very different to the terrain of the Kosciuszko National Park. Furthermore, besides other socio-political factors associated with aerial culling (which is highly objectionable to the public) there are other important aspects of large scale aerial culls that are less widely discussed and rarely considered viz. environmental and ecological impacts of a large number of horse carcasses and importantly the welfare impact on surviving horses (social structure, population dynamics, knock on effects on morbidity and mortality etc), as well as the welfare of other native and non-native species. A large scale cull is likely to bring about a very significant and sudden change in the whole local ecosystem, and there may be many negative impacts rather than simply the assumed positive impacts. We are not aware that potential negative impacts on the environment, surviving horses, changes in population dynamics and impacts on other species has ever been scientifically evaluated following a large scale cull of horses. Furthermore, these large scale culls result in significant sudden reduction in the horses’ population gene pool, giving rise to genetic bottlenecks leading to adverse health and welfare implications, possibly resulting in potentially less genetically robust later generations. Finally, but most importantly, any form of culling is a short term fix, and not a long term solution to population control. As well as scientific factors, there are many social and political factors involved in the decision making which underpins wild horse management plans. These factors should not be thought of separately, as public opinion is influenced by transparency, and by expert opinion, which is influenced critically by scientific evidence. In order to gain public confidence in any management plan, there needs to be robust independent scientific evidence to back up any decisions made, transparency in data collected, a willingness to openly consider the most humane long term population management strategies, and support in advancing the field of wild horse ecology and population management, with animal welfare as the leading consideration. Given that wild horses have inhabited the Kosciuszko National Park for over 150 years, we urge Kosciuszko National Park to take our concerns seriously, and consider these fundamental points in the wild horse management plans that are likely to involve killing thousands of horses with attendant media blowback.
The Event for the 31st has been postponed to allow us to all network and have a better impact. We cannot afford to get this wrong and even though we all want to get out their and stop this atrocity we can not go in looking fragmented we need unity to show a tidal wave of objection, We need facts to respond to the iissues and reasons why they should remain, and being passionate will just not cut it this time, Hoofs have done many protests over the past six years and to be honest Nothing has changed, it creates a wave of unhappy people who believe in what they are doing yet falling down everytime. Lets do this right once and for all. I encourage every single person , forget the past stand shoulder to shoulder because at the end of the day personall agends weaken the army and these brumbies need us all together Cheers Lynne
Will youTake a Stand to save our past for generations to come!!
Join us in our stand to protect Australian Brumby Horses from NPWS Ground shooting and eradication plan. A statement has recently been released to remove up to 5,500 horses over the next 20 years. The evidence put forth to justify eradication of the wild horses is out dated and has no sufficient scientific evidence behind it . It is biased information and green sided. These horses contribute to an important part of the parks ecosystem by conservation grazing, seed regeneration, and creating food sources and habitats for Bird life, Coleoptera and non-arthropod invertebrate animals. From this protest we hope to achieve a better out come for the horses through better management and factual scientific study that negates the argument that the animals are non-native and do not contribute in a positive way. The clip Below Shows the evidence of past governmental mistakes that cause inhuman suffering and loss in Guy Fawkes National Park. We will not stand by and allow total mismanagement and cruelty to repeat itself. It has been shown by the many groups working to save the Brumbies that these horses have a place in our ecosystem and an even stronger place in the hearts of many Australians and International people . Conservation grazing is successfully achieved in many countries across the globe however in Australia two old Outdated laws allow the green government to continue on its path of destruction that once gone will never be replaced.