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Horses packed tightly in holding pens outside Tooele, Utah. Photo by Jennifer MaHarry

The majority of our nation’s wild horses are no longer free. They are warehoused in cramped holding facilities in order to make room for cattle farms on public lands.

On September 9, 2016 the U.S. Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board recommended the unthinkable: killing the 45,000 captive wild horses and burros so that 40,000 more could be rounded up in their place.

Under pressure from widespread outcry, the BLM backed away on Wednesday from the panel’s recommendation. The government agency has a track record of betraying the public’s trust, however. “The BLM’s intention is best exemplified by the agency’s illegal sale of 1,800 wild horses [in 2015] to a known kill buyer (all horses were slaughtered in Mexico) and its subsequent promotion and financial rewarding of the BLM employee who oversaw these illegal transactions,” the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign stated in response to BLM’s announcement. As long as profits and cattle farmers’ interests continue to be a priority, the future of wild horses remains uncertain. As long as Americans’ infatuation with meat persists, so will the cycle of killing horses in order to kill cows.

LAIKA’s Fifth Issue detailed the plight of wild horses in our exclusive report “No Home on the Range” by Mark Hawthorne. Following, is an excerpt from that report, along with a selection of images and recollections by photographer Jennifer MaHarry that accompanied it. They illuminate the suffering these magnificent animals endure during round-ups, in holding facilities and at livestock auctions.

 

No Home on the Range
by Mark Hawthorne
an excerpt from LAIKA Issue Five

Fighting back tears, Deniz Bolbol recounts a gut-wrenching moment in her activism. As part of the nonprofit American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign (AWHPC), she was in Twin Peaks, California, documenting a wild horse roundup carried out by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM). For decades, the BLM — charged under the Department of the Interior with managing public federal lands — has been stampeding horses and burros off the landscape of 10 Western states and moving them to small pastures, where they will languish for the rest of their lives. A lucky few will find homes through the BLM’s adopt-a-horse program. Many others will die. BLM roundups are rife with controversy, but to Bolbol, nothing is more insidious about them than the taxpayer-funded tearing apart of equine families.

“When the horses come into the first pen at a roundup and the family is still together, everybody’s pretty quiet,” she says. “There’s not a lot of vocalization. But when they start separating the stallions from the mares and the babies from their moms, all the horses start talking. You know they are never going to see each other again.” It’s a scene she’s witnessed many times, but in Twin Peaks with her fellow activists, she felt her heart break.

You know they are never going to see each other again.

“We were at the temporary holding facility. They rounded up the horses, brought them into the trap pen, separated the mares from the males and the babies, loaded them up in different trailers, and then moved them to another location with a bunch of corrals for holding until they had a semi load ready. From there, they would take them to short-term holding. We were waiting as they were bringing in horses from the trap site, and this one stallion — we called him Atticus — he would lift his head up over the other stallions and give the loudest neigh, and there would be no response. Every two or three minutes, he would stretch his neck up and give a big neigh. Nothing. Then a trailer came by. Atticus gave another neigh. This time,” she says, her voice trembling, “one of the horses in the trailer neighed back. I said, ‘Oh my god, it’s his mare!’ But it wasn’t. It was his baby. Then the next trailer came with his mare, and the three of them were neighing. We all sat there and were all in tears. It was just so sad. That experience has stayed with me as symbolic of what these horses lose.”  The full feature can be found in our 5th issue.

 

Anatomy of a Roundup
by Jennifer MaHarry
an excerpt from LAIKA Issue Five’s “No Home on the Range”

Helicopter chase of wild horses by Bureau of Land Management

Photo by Jennifer MaHarry

Helicopter Chase
outside of Rock Springs, Wyoming (2014)

A hot, dry September day, and this herd had been relentlessly chased down by the BLM for more than an hour. They were exhausted and terrified of the noisy helicopter bearing down. This shot was the moment when they discovered there was nowhere else to run — they were being driven into a funnel-like trap leading to a pen, which led to a livestock truck. A foal who couldn’t keep up was left behind, and other horses died that day from either exhaustion or broken legs.

 

Wild horses trapped in chute by the BLM

Photo by Jennifer MaHarry

The Trap
Near Onaqui Mts., Utah (2013)

A chute-like “trap” funnels rounded-up horses toward pens that lead to a transport truck where they are culled and separated by age and gender. Within minutes, horses are transported to a government holding facility where they’re further sorted and branded or injected with an infertility vaccine. From there, they go to permanent holding where the public is no longer allowed to see them unless they go up for adoption, which happens less than 2% of the time. Any horse over 10 years old is killed.

Wild horses confined in holding pens

Photo by Jennifer MaHarry

Government Holding Facility
Outside of Tonapah, Utah (2012)

Utter hopelessness was the feeling I got from this young mustang as he nuzzled another yearling for reassurance. I recognized him from the roundup from just an hour earlier and wondered where his mother was. I had watched the BLM separate him and his mother at the trap site and witnessed their desperation to stay together at a level on par to any human mother and child being broken apart.

Mother and baby wil horse kill auction

Photo by Jennifer MaHarry

Fallon Livestock Exchange
Nevada (2013)

110 degree sweltering heat with no shade made my heart pound for two hours as I took pictures. I couldn’t fathom lasting another hour, and these horses were there day after day. This mother and baby shared a moment before they were both auctioned off for slaughter. Nothing could prepare me for the absolute innocence, yet horrible reality, of that moment. This scene is still just as heart-wrenching to look at as it was the day I photographed it.


You can help the wild horses by withdrawing your support from the meat industry, regardless of whether the meat comes from factory farms or is “humanely-raised” or “grass-fed.” Contact your representatives in Congress and tell them that you as a constituent care about this issue. Ask them to protect wild horses and not favor ranching interests. Contact the Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell and tell her wild horses on public lands should be listed and protected under the Endangered Species Act (email feedback@ios.doi.gov or call 202-208-3100). Sign petitions and speak up for wild horses.

Posted by Julie Gueraseva

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Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Regina, a Chicken Whose Life Mattered

Kat Von D

LAIKA’s issue 6 featuring Regina and Kat Von D, photographed by Melissa Schwartz.

There was no question that Regina hen was destined to be a LAIKA cover star. From the moment Kat Von D first held the cuddly chicken at our cover shoot, it was magic.

Everyone on set at Farm Sanctuary in Acton, CA, where Regina resided, was smitten by the charming, curious, friendly and lovable girl. Not only did she fit right in during the shoot, she became the center of attention. Even her vibrant comb matched the color of Kat’s lipstick.

By sharing the cover of our vegan magazine with Kat, and with her name clearly printed, Regina was shown as an individual and a symbol of freedom for all animals.

Vegan Kat Von D Chicken Laika Magazine

When Kat met Regina at our cover shoot—magic. Photos by Melissa Schwartz.

But suddenly and sadly, Regina is no longer with us. Like so many hens, she suffered from reproductive issues and had a severely infected uterus. Although the surgery to remove it was successful, she passed away the night after it in late July. Regina was a rescue from a family’s backyard chicken flock  – a setting that many believe to be more “humane” than the conditions faced by chickens on factory farms.

In a letter to Regina’s loving sponsors, Farm Sanctuary explained that “whenever an animal is commodified, their individual needs and interests are overlooked in favor of securing profits.” Chickens who are used for eggs frequently develop reproductive issues due to overproduction. It’s unimaginable for Regina to experience cruelty, yet the U.S. alone kills 23 million chickens every single day. In fact, they are the most abused land animal on the planet. But if given a chance to express themselves, each one will show a personality that is uniquely their own,  just like Regina’s.

Following is a poignant tribute from one of the “humanimals” that knew Regina best — Danielle Petrovich, facilities coordinator at Farm Sanctuary’s Acton shelter:

“Regina was my friend. It may sound strange or foreign to most people who have never had the opportunity to get to know a chicken. She was special, though. Even among her ‘rescue peers,’ she stood out. Or, more accurately, she stood up, ran over, and made sure you knew she was there. If we did ‘superlatives’ for the flock (like in your high school yearbook) Regina would have won these hands down. ‘Cutest.’ She was freaking adorable with the black and white feather motif and the bright red comb! Regina means ‘queen’ [in Latin], and her unique ‘rose comb’ crowned her little face as though it was designed on commission. ‘Friendliest.’ When greeting humanimal friends, new and old, she was uninhibited by self-consciousness or fear. Everyone she met was immediately treated to her boundless antics: Pecking lightly at your shoe, elbow, jewelry, pant leg, belt, shirt button or lower back tattoo (should you be crouched down facing away from her, and have your shirt ride up a bit.)

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Regina in the foreground during our shoot, curiously examining the camera, with Danielle behind her.

She made an excellent ambassador for her species.

“A familiar lap was a favorite place for a nap and a pet. Regina often happily jumped right up and made herself cozy. ‘Most likely to Cheer You Up’ and ‘Most Squawky’ would undoubtedly go to her as well. When introducing her to people, I would often compare her to a stranger in the market who peers into your cart, strikes up a conversation about an item you’ve got in there and still has you chatting a half hour later. Initially in that scenario we’d be taken aback, yet by the end wanting to exchange numbers and meet up for a soy chai. Regina did that to people. You only needed to meet her once to feel as though you knew her. Perhaps because she made us feel, through her trust and her unequivocal gush of attention, as though she knew us. She sought us out. She truly loved people. For this reason, she made an excellent ambassador for her species. For the multitudes of people who will never have the pleasure of meeting her, I am gravely saddened. Mostly though, I just miss my friend.”

Regina, whose light shone bright, will live on forever on the cover of LAIKA, reminding that chickens are individuals whose lives matter. In honor of her memory, and all animals, we encourage you to go vegan.

Posted by Julie Gueraseva

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Thursday, July 21, 2016

Issue Six Cover Shoot With Kat Von D

 

LAIKA’s Issue Six cover shoot with Kat Von D at Farm Sanctuary was a special experience for everyone involved. Creating something beautiful in a place where animals are safe left an indelible imprint. “By posing with rescued animals on the cover of a vegan magazine, while wearing head-to-­toe vegan products — from makeup, to clothes, to footwear — Kat sent a huge message of compassion to the world,” says LAIKA’s editor in chief Julie Gueraseva. The LAIKA photo shoot was Kat’s first ever visit to a sanctuary, and her genuine love for the rescued animals she bonded with was apparent. Watch our exclusive behind the scenes video of that magical day.

Kat Von D

Kat did her own hair and makeup at the LAIKA shoot, using vegan products from her line Kat Von D Beauty. The compassionate stunner created four distinct looks, including the bold green eye seen on the cover. Our Issue Six cover story broke the news to the beauty world that Kat is in the process of reformulating her entire line to be vegan. Look for the detailed credits of everything Kat wore at our shoot inside our new issue.

LAIKA Kat Von D Cover Shoot

Kat and Bruno. Photo by Vee Hertel.

The force of Kat’s creative energy was palpable, inspiring everyone on set and resulting in the beautiful images taken by photographer Melissa Schwartz. Pick up a copy of Issue 6 or subscribe to see all of the incredible photos and read the revealing interview with Kat.

Kat Von D

 

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