Meet "Kai", a feral colt rescued near Sundre over a week ago. With the province looking to implement a program to reduce the numbers of these horses, he is one of the lucky ones.
There is still a great debate amongst the government and horse enthusiasts regarding whether these horses are "wild" or "feral" and if the government has any right to intervene. Scientifically speaking, horse bones have been found in Ontario, Alberta and Saskatchewan and deemed to be 800 years old or older. This makes the horses indisputably indigenous, to not only Alberta, but North America as well.
It is also known that the horses who have been part of the Alberta wilderness for the past 100 years are derived from an ancient bloodline as well as from horses used in colonizing North America. In spite of these findings, the federal and provincial governments still classify these horses as "feral", meaning they don't belong.
According to a recent count, there are approximately 980 of these "feral" horses living in Alberta amongst the Eastern Slopes area and the provincial government is looking to reduce these numbers by 20%. In order to manage the herd, they plan on issuing 20 permits to ranchers and enthusiasts. The Province of Alberta has already issued the first permit to capture 25% of the approx 200 wild horses they are planning to remove.
Horse enthusiasts and rescues are calling this program a "cull" stating that many trappers and ranchers will look to taking these horses to slaughter. Given that horsemeat processing is a multimillion-dollar industry in Alberta, it is expected that the majority of the horses caught during this program will be sent for slaughter without a chance to be saved.
According to Bob Henderson, president of the Wild Horses of Alberta Society, these culls have gone in since regulations were implemented in Alberta in 1993. In fact, in just 2011-2012 there were 218 horses caught; the vast majority of which went to slaughter.
Judith Samson-French, a veterinarian, suggests that a more sustainable solution would be to inject females with an implant to make them infertile for several years. She notes that the Alberta program creates a major issue because if "ranchers remove only stallions, the number of horses will continue to grow at an alarming rate". By instead adopting the contraceptive approach, the Province and horse welfare enthusiasts alike would get what they want - the population under control and no unnecessary deaths.
Despite thousands of signatures on petitions to stop this situation, the province maintains that it is necessary in order to prevent damage to the environment. Until a time as to which the Alberta government ends this program or cancels it due to overwhelming public outcry, the society will do what they can to rescue captured equines and prevent them from going to slaughter.