A group of animal rights protesters tried to catch up with the premier while she attended a celebration to mark the Year of the Horse in Calgary's Chinatown last night.

​Activist Mona Jorgensen said it was an ironic visit given that the provincial government issued permits to capture 196 wild horses this year in Alberta.

Licensees can keep the horses for personal use or sell them for slaughter.

protest

Protesters picketed outside a restaurant in Chinatown where the premier was attending an event to mark the Year of the Horse. (CBC)

“We’re hoping that we can grab Premier Redford’s attention and make her understand that she should put a stop to this and listen to some alternative solutions,” said Jorgensen.

“We'd like to save the horses. We understand the committee that was put together has some conflicting information as far as the count.”

The province estimates there are 980 wild horses near Sundre based on an aerial survey done before the June floods and this year's harsh winter. That number is up from 853 the year before.

But Jorgensen said private aerial surveys of the wild horse population don't match up with the province's numbers.

And she believes contraceptives could be used to control the population.

Jorgensen said the culled horses would most likely end up in slaughterhouses.

Provincial biologists have said in the past they don't consider the feral animals true wildlife because they are descendants of domestic horses used in logging and mining operations in the early 1900s.

But not everyone agrees.

"We should be looking deeper into these animals before we simply state that they're 'barnyard escapees,' which they clearly are not," Canadian Wild Horse Foundation co-founder Adrian Calvert said in a past interview

"These are animals that have been out there for hundreds of years. They are wildlife. They are native wildlife and they need to be protected as such." 

The province says the herds need to be managed because they are competing with native animals and livestock.