SPARKS, Nev. — One of most stirring symbols of the American West — mustangs thundering freely across the range — could be heading east.
The government wants to carry out what is believed to be the biggest-ever roundup of wild horses on federal land, moving as many as 25,000 mustangs and burros to pastures in the Midwest and East out of fear their fast-multiplying numbers will lead to mass starvation.
The plan is facing heated opposition from advocates who contend the proposal is itself inhumane and unnecessary. They say the situation is not as dire as the government has said.
"The Obama administration must craft a new policy that protects these animals and upholds the will of Congress and the public’s desire to preserve this important part of our national heritage,” said William Spriggs, lawyer for the group In Defense of Animals.
He and other advocates spoke out Monday at a hearing on the proposal, held by a federal advisory panel at a hotel-casino near Reno. The panel took no immediate action.
The government argues that the mustang population in 10 Western states is growing so rapidly that the horses are running out of food, in part because of drought ravaging the area.