It’s here! The 2016 Draft Wild Horse Management Plan

The long-awaited Draft Wild Horse Management Plan produced by the NSW Parks & Wildlife Service was released in early May. The document is open for public comment until August 19,  and I urge any readers who have strong feelings about this issue to make a submission.

In brief, the Draft Plan advocates for a reduction of brumby numbers from an estimated 6,000 horses to 600, using a range of methods, and being undertaken over a period of twenty years. Once the population has stabilised at this sustainable number, other, non-lethal approaches will be implemented, including fertility control, and ongoing passive trapping. The Draft Plan has been met with disbelief by brumby advocates. The most highly-reported opinions have been of those outraged by the proposal, while those in support have not been as visible in the popular media. Further, any accurate reportage of the core elements of the Draft Plan is frequently lost amid the outcry.

One example of this, sent to me by a blog reader, is the July issue of the Australian Women’s Weekly. The magazine’s cover features the tagline “Our heritage – The fight to stop a brumby massacre”, and the article, titled “The battle to save Snowy’s Brumbies”, continues in much the same vein. Overall, I find it doubtful that the author of this piece had even read the Draft Plan when she wrote the article. It refers to environmentalists disparagingly as “greenies” [1], repeatedly gives the impression that fertility control has been completely discounted under the Draft Plan (it hasn’t), and reports the opinion of a brumby advocate who “looks overseas to Europe, where horses are being reintroduced to many wildlife areas to protect biodiversity and replenish natural spaces. Surely … the Snowy Mountains brumbies must have similar value.”[2] The repetition of this woolly thinking is incredibly frustrating, for, as discussed previously on this blog, there can be no comparison between habitats that have evolved alongside hooved mammals, and those (like Australia’s) which have not.

Elsewhere we see the reportage of a very select reading of the evidence – brumby advocate Madison Young, for example, is cited  as being “furious that shooting on sight [site] has been rated by the scientists’ group as more humane than transporting to rehoming.” [3] This appears to be a misreading of the 2015 report of the Humaneness Assessment Panel, which was assembled on behalf of the Independent Technical Reference Group, which makes the point that being shot on site is a more humane option (for the 82% of brumbies who do not find a home) than being trucked interstate to slaughterhouses. Of course it is wonderful for the 18% of brumbies that are transported out to rescue groups and rehomed. But, as has been discussed elsewhere, this is certainly not the fate of the majority of horses removed from the park.

Of course misinformation such as that seen in the Women’s Weekly story is rife in such debates. Consider another “fact”, appearing in the Daily Mail Australia‘s coverage of the Draft Management Plan: “The brumby arrived in Australia on the First Fleet. Only seven survived the harrowing journey.” [4] I honestly don’t even know where to start with everything that is incorrect within that statement! But when you consider the source cited is savethebrumby.org, you begin to see which voices are being heard most loudly in these debates.

This level of misinformation in the (pro-brumby) opinions that are so frequently cited by the media is disappointingly reminiscent of climate change deniers. It would be a shame if such strategies of obfuscation lead to a similar state of paralysed inactivity, while the world (and Kosciuszko National Park!) hurtles towards a state of inevitable destruction.

REFERENCES:

[1] Beverley Hadgraft, “The battle to save Snowy’s Brumbies,” Australian Women’s Weekly July 2016, p. 31.

[2] ibid, p. 34.

[3] ibid.

[4] Hannah Moore, “Almost 6,000 wild brumbies living in the Snowy Mountains to be killed under controversial NSW scheme to save Mount Kosciuszko National Park,” Daily Mail Australia, accessed 2 May 2016.

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7 thoughts on “It’s here! The 2016 Draft Wild Horse Management Plan

  1. Thanks Isa,
    A very accurate and insightful assessment and commentary on the current situation as always.
    Now all I need is for the readership of your blog to break through to the general populace. Every bit helps however

    Interesting times, particularly with the NSW governments recent actions and announcements in regard to the greyhound racing industry and how wild horse advocacy groups have reacted to and interpreted this in relation to the wild horse management issues.
    Funny as to how none of them have considered or commented on how some factions within their groups support and condone brumby running and roping?

    Thanks again and regards.

    Rob Gibbs
    Ranger
    Kosciuszko National Park
    Wild Horse Management Plan Review Project

    Office: 02 6450 5507
    Mob: 0427 703 494
    Email: rob.gibbs@environment.nsw.gov.au

  2. My heartfelt thanks for such a comprehensive criticism of the arguments by the pro brumby people. Are you going to put your text into a submission and letters to media, Baird and Speakman? I have a small email list of arouynd 20 supporters and will fw your comments to them, some of whom are preparing submissions in support of the draft plan. Graham Scully

  3. OMG…. animal welfare/ rights groups claim to ‘speak for those without a voice” why are we not allowed to express our opposing opinions? Our social perceptions are being manipulated by extremely misinformed social justice worriers……. Animals in the wild BRED…… naturally. wild horses are not FLICKER…… they can seriously cause damage to the environment and to humans…. just get in a pen and try and make physical contact with them and see how they react…. Bring down numbers is something we as humans have been able to do for centuries…… now in one generation we are being brainwashed to think that every animal must be saved……this is an unsustainable attitude….I am tired of people “rescuing ” horses…. what happened to buying an animal and making a informed decision about the quality of LIVESTOCK we keep…..

    • Hi, thanks for reading and commenting. Interestingly it’s far more than the animal rights groups who are vested in retaining the brumbies. In the case of Kosciuszko horses in particular, many in the local community feel that they are all that remains of the pastoral legacy of the region, and that if they are removed, they will lose that part of their settler heritage. That’s what makes this debate so interesting, it’s not simply about ecosystems, but a case of nature vs culture.

  4. Yes our culture hurts nature simply because eg. the idea of saving every brumby is unsustainable… Pastoralists would not agree it was a smart thing to do to keep the brumby population unchecked. It is kinder to cull for the health of the herds and HERITAGE. I have been to many large properties where they had horses running wild and free, but they would run them through the yards and excess amounts for the properties were taken to the meatworks as prime livestock. This was a fact of life, They are A HERD ANIMAL that can be domesticated, but not every brumby is worth domesticating. How ridiculous is our culture to not understand that these animals live on a day to day bases, they have not got the concept of longevity…., they are wild. What?….. do people think that dying in the wild does not happen…? and gruesomely……? If you cull you get to weed out the obviously retarded ones… ( people also need to understand that breeding in wild/nature, produces a degree of challenged stock).
    If you think that the intervention of costly sterilization or hormonal darts are a better alternative than culling you have proverbial rocks in your head… do not interfere in this part of the cycle of nature… keep them uncompromised….but keep the numbers down.

  5. Regarding your comments on my report in the AWW, I’d just like to put the record straight and let you know I read both the 1016 and 2008 Horse Management Plan, the ITRG report, Straight Talk’s Community Engagement Report and conclusions, 2013 Observations of Pest Horse Management report in the Australian Alps and Caring for Our Australian Alps from the Australian Govt Dept of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency. In addition I interviewed many people from both sides of the debate, so many in fact that I wasn’t able to include everyone’s interviews in this piece.
    In this age of digital output, many media outlets do rush poorly-researched pieces out with an eye to maximum clickability, but AWW isn’t one of them.

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