The fate of some 5,000 wild horses at the Lake Gregory station in the Kimberly region of West Australia has hung in the balance since 2010. At that time we were told by the WA Government that the horses would be mustered and trucked to slaughter at Peterborough (SA), then (after public outrage) that they would be shot from helicopters, and then (after more outrage) that none would be killed.
In 2013 it now again appears that killing — even aerial shooting of the horses — may again be an option the Government is considering.
Whilst Animals Australia continues to lobby for the protection of these animals, for everyone who shares our concerns for the Lake Gregory horses we have prepared a running update with the latest information on this complicated issue. The most recent updates are listed first.
A reshuffle of the West Australian Government’s Ministry last week has led to the appointment of a new Minister for Indigenous Affairs – The Hon. Peter Collier, MLC. It is not yet known how this change will effect the management of the Lake Gregory station and the horses who reside there. Animals Australia will urge the new Minister to adopt non-lethal and humane long term solutions for the wild horses of Lake Gregory and other WA stations. See below for contact details so that you too can express your view to the new Minister.
WA Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Dr Kim Hames visited the Mulan community at Lake Gregory last week. Department of Indigenous Affairs officers and a commercial horse musterer made an aerial estimate of horse numbers.
Minister Hames issued a statement which says in part that:
Animals Australia is seeking further details, and maintains its grave concern about any plan to transport wild horses long distances to slaughter (i.e. it is likely 'suitable' abattoirs are at either Peterborough (SA), or Caboolture (Qld)).
Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Dr Kim Hames, will visit the community of Mulan next week to investigate ways to save wild horses around the Lake Gregory region.
Dr Hames said no decisions had been made regarding the fate of what is estimated to be thousands of animals. He said the first priority was to discuss with local members of the community the best way to save as many horses as possible. "These horses are causing severe environmental damage in the area and we need to deal with the problem, " Dr Hames said. "The Pastoral Board issued us with an instruction to reduce the horse population, or the lease would not be renewed which would affect the economic viability of the community. "There was a previous proposal to shoot the horses in an aerial cull which was deemed a humane way to deal with the population. However, I abandoned that program and I believe that decision was the right one. "I also know there is intense interest locally and from around the world regarding the fate of these animals and I will ensure we save as many of them as we can. "
Dr Hames said discussions for the future of the horses included rounding up younger animals and training them, in collaboration with the local community. "We have been discussing how to train some of these horses with local and interstate experts, " Dr Hames said. "Unfortunately, some animals will have to be put down. Animals that are too wild or too old to be trained will be humanely destroyed. "Suggestions that trucking was an inhumane way to transport these horses are inaccurate. My advice is that horses can be trained for safe transport and this is currently occurring around Australia. "
Dr Hames said the State Government would establish a budget to break-in and train horses, and potentially teach local people in horse-related skills.
In this article (prepared by a journalist after a briefing from Minister Hames), it appeared the Minister was again endorsing the cruel mustering and transport of thousands of wild horses from WA to an abattoir in Queensland — an almost 4,000km trip! The contractor involved has said they will be killed 'for the table' i.e. killed for export for human consumption.
Following a second wave of public backlash, WA's Indigenous Affairs Minister Hames ordered that an aerial shoot of the horses be abandoned in favour of non-lethal means of reducing the horse population on the station. Animals Australia applauded the Minister.
The WA Government said then that it would conduct an aerial count of the Lake Gregory horses, then appoint an expert committee to advise on non-lethal methods to reduce their number.
A special Animal Welfare Advisory Committee advised mustering and long distance transport of wild horses was likely to breach the WA Animal Welfare Act 2002. That advice and public concern halted the plans to truck the horses to South Australia for slaughter. It was then mooted (and feared) that there would be an aerial shoot to remove all the horses.
Plans announced that an estimated 5,000 horse on Lake Gregory station (south of Halls Creek in WA) would be mustered and transported to Peterborough in South Australia for slaughter for human consumption. They are said to be doing damage to the cattle pastoral lease land. A public outcry ensued when Animals Australia and colleague groups alerted the public to the cruel plan.
Is trucking humane?
The mustering of wild horses (usually by helicopter), the stress of yarding multiple mobs, each with protective and aggressive stallions, while assembled for transport is a known recipe for horrific injuries and death even before the journey commences.
Long distance transportation of wild horses is known to cause high levels of injuries and fatalities (up to 16 times that of cattle), and indeed the Senate Select Committee on Animal Welfare in 1991 said 'The committee considers that the prolonged stress and trauma associated with this practice is unconscionable and cannot be condoned’.
Animals Australia's advice is that such transport will breach Section 19 (3) (a) the WA Animal Welfare Act — it is an offence if an animal 'is transported in a way that causes, or is likely to cause, it unnecessary harm'.
Is aerial shooting humane?
Shooting horses (or any animal) from a moving platform creates a high risk of injury (rather than instant death). In the case of wild horses, the chase - due to the fear of the helicopters - also means stressed horses can become injured, foals will be separated, and animals can be trampled.
What you can do
The Hon. Peter Collier, MLC
Minister for Indigenous Affairs