Many if not most Americans see horses as noble animals — immensely attractive and a stand-out symbol of pioneering days, of settlers’ struggle-filled journeys across vast expanses of land on the backs of, or in wagons pulled by these sometimes-too-burdened beasts.
Seeing horses — singly or in groups — in a field, free and unfettered, is a memorable experience. Watching them perform on a race track, seemingly enjoying what they are doing, is similarly enhancing, emotionally. Observing them pull plows, as in days of old, on an Amish farm, shows in yet another way how closely man has intertwined this creature’s experience, even beyond its sentience, with ours.
Still, we’ve endeavored to make them stronger, longer-lived, better able to serve us — which has been our intention all along — by feeding them chemicals (herbicides and more) harmful to them through the hay and grain they eat; we give them, counter-productively, antibiotics. We’ve done these noble beasts assorted disservices.
And because we love and respect them, we, the people, via our representatives in Washington in 1971, via the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act (Public Law 92-195), made this declaration:
To require the protection, management, and control of wild free- roaming horses and burros on public lands. Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That Congress finds and declares that wild free-roaming horses and burros are living symbols of the historic and pioneer spirit of the West; that they contribute to the diversity of life forms within the Nation and enrich the lives of the American people; and that these horses and burros are fast disappearing from the American scene. It is the policy of Congress that wild free-roaming horses and burros shall be protected from capture, branding, harassment, or death; and to accomplish this they are to be considered in the area where presently found, as an integral part of the natural system of the public lands.
So, wild horses — the modern-day version, possibly way different from the original Genus Equus, which scientists believe died out in North America, its original home, some 13,000 years ago — now are a protected species.
A frequent and unfortunate side effect of protecting a species is that, before you know it, particularly in the case of one like horses, with few natural predators, sometimes, such animals become, as wild horses have, too numerous for the land available to them.
Compare two other ‘protected species’ — dogs and cats: The American Humane Society says that
“About 2.4 million healthy, adoptable cats and dogs—about one every 13 seconds—are put down in U.S. shelters each year. Often these animals are the offspring of cherished family pets.
Which brings us back to the ‘uh oh’:
The federal government’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is responsible for ensuring those protected horses and burros aren’t so over protected that there are more of them than their food/water resources can sustain. Meaning, in short, some are culled, every year. Why? Because of the fact that, according to the BLM, “The current estimated on-range wild horse and burro population (as of March 1, 2015) [was] 58,150, an 18 percent increase over the 2014 estimate of 49,209. That means the current West-wide on-range population exceeds AML by 31,435.”
The Washington Post reported a couple of years ago, under the headline “The West is on the brink of a wild horse apocalypse. (No, Really)”, said that the BLM’s culling doesn’t, as a rule, involve exterminating the horses pulled from the wild population — because “Congress has largely restricted the slaughter of healthy horses,” The Post said — but, instead, they are shipped off “to long-term “retirement” facilities — mainly private ranches in Kansas and Oklahoma; The problem is that this is hugely expensive: There are now 45,000 horses in these facilities, and BLM’s horse budget has soared from $19.8 million in 2000 to $74.9 million in 2012,” The story in The Post went on.
Meanwhile, the number of Americans unable to obtain and consume the amounts of food/vitamins/minerals/etc. they should is, beyond being frightening, totally disgraceful. As of last year, according to feedingamerica.org, some “48.1 million Americans lived in food insecure households, including 32.8 million adults and 15.3 million children.”\
NBC News has reported that a record number of wild horses – almost 50,000 – are now living in captivity, far more than some 32,000 left on the range.
In captivity. What kind of life is that for a beautiful that is unable to be self-sufficient only because its range is limited?
And what, ultimately, is the point of maintaining those captive facilities at so high a cost — particularly when a practical alternative is staring us in the face: Rather than ‘pensioning out’ excess wild horses, let’s ‘permanently retire’ them, and put their valuable, unadulterated protein to good use in one or another (already existing) program for Americans in need of animal protein?
I love to see and watch horses. I enjoy riding them, or rare occasions. But . . .
I think horse meat is a serious protein source that, for emotional and probably impractical reasons, is being ignored.
Let’s rethink horsemeat.
Please do me a favor and checkout Commotion In The Pews, an eclectic blog by a brilliant (ex-Naval Intelligence) guy with a fascinating range of interests and a hobby being Santa, wherever he’s invited, in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area.
Some of what Joe Courtemanche writes about probably won’t excite you, but at the very least, you more than likely will be impressed by his common sense, and the way he tells his tales.