Wednesday, July 2, 2008

A Difficult Choice

Too many horses, not enough funding

The horse world is abuzz right now. What to do with 33,000 mustangs that have been standing in long term holding facilities when adoption numbers are down, drought has destroyed rangelands, and there are 32,000 more wild horses that need to be managed?

This is not an easy fix.

I hear the complaints far and wide. "The BLM has mismanaged for years!" "We knew this would happen!" "Get those dang blasted cattle off the ranges!" "Just send them to slaughter, it's where they belong!"

Oh,'s been a lovely couple of days out there for mustangs.

And if for some reason you missed the article in the local paper, the national news, or here online, let me just recap the whole thing for you.

Wild horses running through chutes before being loaded for an upcoming adoption.

The BLM is facing a major crisis. For years, of course, these horses were sent to slaughter by any means a person could get them there. Velma Johnson spearheaded the fight to save our national treasure. Her grandparents had traveled by wagon across the US when her father was a babe. Her grandma's milk went dry, but one of the mares had foaled and they used her milk for the infant. That mare had been a mustang, so Velma of course grew up with a special bond and love for these horses. So when on her way to work one day, she came across a truck dripping blood out the back, she was horrified to find out it was jam packed with injured mustangs being hauled to slaughter.

I'm of the mind that Velma was raised in a much harsher time than we are now. I can't imagine that slaughter in and of itself probably was shocking to a farm girl. But to see them cramped and cooped up, and then to sneak out and follow these men and see exactly how they went about abusing the horses while capturing them...well, I think any of us would have turning stomachs.

And so it was that she fought the good fight and legislation was introduced to stop the slaughter of these symbols of the west. The BLM went from paying whomever could round them up to get rid of them, to developing an excellent marketing plan for our Living Legends.

And it worked.

Sort of.

The concept is good, but the horses breed well. And then we've got the cattlemen out there on public land. Oh, good'd think they were public enemy number one! Or maybe they're number two behind the BLM, I'm not sure. I just know that many so called wild horse advocates hate cattlemen, claiming there'd be enough grazing land if the cattle were just gone.

One of the many 'three strikes' horses now at the corrals.

Which of course is not true, nor will it happen. Cattle are there to stay. Contracts are written and will be upheld. And the cattle are there to stay. Did I mention they're staying? No point in arguing as it won't change a thing.

But in the meantime the horses are still multiplying. Herds double in size every four years. A herd of 100 is a herd of 200 in 2012, and in 2016 it's a herd of 400! That's a lot of Living Legends vying for a wee little bit of grazing land in the desert.

People like myself love these horses enough to adopt them. Not everyone loves them that much. Some people don't like them at all. Some say they admire what I do, but mustangs would never be able to do what they like their horses to do. To which I reply that's a load of bull you know what, because of course there's a mustang who can do it just as well as your horse can. You just need to figure out how to find that mustang. But I regress. Point is, you can only adopt out so many. The rest are just...there. They've been captured and pulled off the range. Now what? What do we do with the horses that nobody wants and can't be sent to slaughter?

We put them into long term holding facilities. Ranches that have enough land to house hundreds, and sometimes even thousands, of wild horses that no one wants. And how many did I tell you were there? That's right...33,000 wild horses in holding facilities living out the rest of their lives, which can easily be 15-20 years!

And hay prices are going up. Yes, you knew that because you're scrambling to find feed as well. So is the BLM. In fact, three quarters of their budget this year is now going towards the care of horses in holding facilities. Which means they haven't got money to head out and do gathers. And if they don't do gathers, they leave horses on the range where there is nothing to eat because of drought. The result, of course, is a slow, agonizing death by starvation.

Filly born a the Burns Wild Horse Corrals this spring

The BLM has a possible solution. Of course, it makes people angry. It doesn't even matter what the solution is, someone will be angry somewhere. And while I wince, it appears to be the best option. Euthanasia. They haven't said how many, or how they'll dispose of the bodies.

You can't make everyone happy, though. Some folks are hollering that no animal should die. Others say send them to Europe for dinner.

Naturally, I have an opinion. But I'd like to hear your's.


Jamie said...

That's just terrible! I think it's a bad idea. There has to be another solution for the problem!

P.S. How do I go about contacting you about possibly getting some more soap? I found a couple scents in my "box of goodies" that I ordered in February.

Gecko said...

Ahh, the fact you can't make everybody happy. I have at least two rants bubbling inside me at the moment but I won't spill my mess all over your comments. All I'll say is there are two main fights on about what to do with animals round here at moment, Kangaroos and Bats. But that's all I'm saying! If you want to hear the rants leave a comment on my blog and I shall grant your wish, but I won't hold my breath.

So I'm guessing the horses put out on the ranches wouldn't be breeding? In other words do they geld all the males they put out there? If they're doing that then what if one mare is pregnant with a colt?

The People History said...

Tracey , I am sorry I have to jump in here , I think there has to be a compromise between Mustangs and Cattle and it appears to me the pendulum has swung to far over to the cattlemen ,

I realise they pay for the privalige of using the land for grazing and that should be respected , but the horses were there before the cattle in millions ( or in similar timeframe )so to now say they must be decreased even further from the figures in 2001 ( 50,000 ) seems wrong.
I am afraid that is what the proposed euphanasia is really about.


Mrs Mom said...

Tracey, you brought up some good info as well here. I still think that there is more :missing" here... I may be wrong, but something just feels... well, off.. about the situation.

Or maybe it is because I am focused these days on the domentic population of horses starving to death thanks to the drought and the rising hay prices.

I dont have the solution Tracey, and I know that whatever happens, it is going to hurt. Someone, somewhere is going to hurt over the final decision that is made.

Keep reporting tracey- I will follow this closely with you.

And Kiss Sandy from us. And the two new dudes. At least we know they are safe!

Callie said...

I'm not apposed to cattle ranching. I do eat beef and I like it! However, I just have to wonder who's money is going into who's pocket. I beleive there is much more to it than simply an overstock. There is a lot of info out there, numbers and such. Makes for some interesting reading and brings up some questions? Like the numbers have decreased by half since 2001, Why?. How many animals does it take to keep a viable herd? I don't know, but I can't help but think there is more to it than simply money and land. And if they are going to do, it seems like such a waste. Synthetic drugs used to euphanize do not break down, it has to go somewhere. I won't say anymore at the risk of pissing off those good friends I've found over the internet. Anyway, the whole thing just doesn't cook well for me. Thanks for letting us voice. :)

Callie said...

Oops! Spelling is over rated, silly me. "euthanize"

E. Thompson said...

The problem has been caused by the BLM's mismanagement and now, typically, they want to take the easy way out. There are ways to use contraceptives to control the herd numbers, but it takes organization and proper management -- something the BLM has never fostered or valued.

This policy also reflects our President's bias against these animals. He is determined to rid our country of these mustangs.

Bottom line: these are a national treasure. They need to be protected, not harvested.

I am tired of our government creating problems and then taking the easy way out. It's just shameful.

nikki said...

That just makes me so... sad. I think of my mustangs and my domestic horses and can't imagine them having their lives cut short because it is not "a horses market" right now.

These animals are so magnificent and every animal has their own personality. To just kill them like that is awful but then we do it to thousands of cats and dogs every year...

I'm not big on the slaughter idea and am glad that those plants closed. I've seen some horrible videos at slaughter houses that haunt me. Horses are such sensitive animals and I think that is cruel to send them to slaughter. However having them euthanized and disposed of is such a waste to. Then what did they die for?

I don't believe in killing an animal unless it is suffering or you are going to eat it. Please keep us posted on what they are planning. Do you have a link to a website that stays updated and talks about it?

Katee said...

This is such an awful time for horses both domestic and wild. Because I personally value the wild horse, I choose to show this by spending my money on wild horses. I own one mustang and intend to own a second soon.

I can't solve the problems of the horse world, but like the man throwing the starfish back into the sea I'm making a difference to this ONE horse and that matters.

I appreciate you sharing this argument Tracey and I thank you for making a difference for all the wild horses you've adopted. With each scoop of poop and flake of hay you are changing the world for the better!

Tracey said...

One thing to bear in mind regarding the ranches is that they're often the ones who provide water to the horses. They have the troughs, they clean out the ditches and drainage areas. They're also kept on a strict, seasonal grazing rotation. Cattle also graze differently than horses, leaving a lot more vegetation behind.

Now, even if we did wipe out all the cattle (go ahead, I'll allow you some dream time), if 33,000 horses were allowed back onto the land from the holding long would that range land last?

If we didn't do another gather for four more years, allowing them to reproduce naturally, the 32,000 that are out there would be 64,000...and again, how long would we be able to support them?

We cannot adopt them all out.

The land does not support them, with or without cattle in the mix.

We are in a drought in most areas and there's no grazing land left. Hay prices are sky rocketing. If there were feed, if hay was affordable, then we wouldn't be sitting here talking about this at all. But the horses in holding facilities are consuming 3/4 of the budget for this year. That's the problem at hand which needs solving.

projectjasper said...

The only way the herd doubles is if they can breed. What about birth control management? Personally,I feel that the BLM does not listen to people or organizations who have great ideas and also have PROOF that managing herds in the wild other than what they currently do - rounding them up and separating families - can be done BETTER. Return to Freedom is a wonderful example of preserving natural herd groups using non-hormonal birth control methods and habitat preservation. There are some wonderful rare breeds that hopefully will not die out with their efforts.

Rising Rainbow said...

There is no simple solution that's for sure but I just can't help but think that some sort of birth control must be a part of any plan if it's going to be successful. However, managing this problem will take a lot more than just that.

DianneC said...

I do believe that the current administration, and many people as well are all for "whatever makes money". Where I go to see wild horses, there are more cattle on the land and so more horses must go. Cattle bring money into the federal government so they are more valuable than wild horses.
Unfortunately the country is so far into debt with the war that it will be many years before we will be able to get out of debt. In the mean time the budgets for the BLM and our National Parks and National Forests are cut to the bone in addition to the price of hay going up. They have been talking about birth control for years, anyone know why that's not an option?

Jade said...

All of you who are against the cattle have to think deeper than the surface. The surface say there are cattle on the land. That must mean that there is a massive cattle company behind all the cattle on "horse" land. There isn't. The cattle that co-exist with the wild horse are owned by small ranchers trying to make a living to support thier families and community. The ranchers are held to a very strict grazing policy and agreement. If they violate that agreement, by even a day, the fines are tremendous. Remember, these people are HARD working Americans doing the only thing they know how to do; run a cattle ranch.
The managment of the horses has evolved into a tremendously successful thing. You seldom see "ugly" horses on the ranges. The horses are selected to make them more adoptable. The horse are innoculated and monitored for health and safety. They are also altered as allowed by certain special interest groups. One major reason for the horses not being put on some chemical inhibitor is the special interest groups. You can only do as much as will be allowed to do, within the RESTRICTION provided. There isn't a government agency to blame for the cattle or horse management. Many hands are tied as to what can and can't be done, by lawyers representing big city groups that have never been in the country.

Cindy Durham said...

There is no perfect answer. You can leave them out there and let nature take its course (the strongest will survive) but if there are too many and not enough natural food to support them, how many will starve to death. Slaughter house Are not the answer, and with hay prices so high, many of us that would adopt several, just can't afford too. Putting them down is more humane but painful to think about. Not leasing the land to ranchers....everyone says that it shouldn't happen, but who would be screaming when beef prices skyrocket because there isn't enough to go around. Like I said, no good answer.
Good post.