Saturday, January 8, 2011

Summit Update

View from our room at the South Point

First, let me just say I'm glad to be home. Glad to be away from Las Vegas and it's bright lights and gambling. Glad not to be breathing 'enriched' air forced into our lungs at the hotel. Glad to be cleaning stalls, and breathing in the scent of wild horses rather than cigarette smoke. The only thing I'll miss is the maid. I want a maid...someone who comes in and cleans up after me and makes my bed and delivers clean towels to my bathroom every day. Indeed, I do.

The Summit of the Horse proved to be quite interesting. I wasn't too sure what to expect; on one hand, there was talk about finding solutions, and slaughter being only one of the topics. What caught my eye on the front page of their website, however was this:

Control Excess Wild & Feral Horses: Deal with Unwanted, Abandoned, and Neglected Horses on all Lands

If you refuse to stand idly by while extreme environmentalists and wild horse non-experts create West-wide ecological destruction by allowing horses to overrun the resource base…this is your chance. Those of us who live on the land, and understand implicitly the danger presented by a one-species myopia that will destroy native wildlife, and cause damage that will take hundreds of years and billions of dollars to restore…we need to speak up. If you want to send a powerful message to Washington, D.C. and the citizens of the United States as to what true range scientists, conservationists, and horse experts know are long-term, sustainable solutions based on science, experience, and a deep compassion for horses…then this is one event that you cannot afford to miss.

Now, I don't know about you, but to me the fact that this was their lead off topic gave me the feeling that someone was pushing to do away with excess wild horses, and in a big way. If you've been here at the Mustang Diaries for any amount of time, you'll know I'm in favor of gathers and supportive of the BLM's management. However, I simply do not approve of one giant sweet that sends my beloved mustangs to Alpo. I understand the need for a solution, absolutely. But something here felt very menacing.

Nevada has more wild horses than all other states combined.

I'm a fan of education and realistic expectations where both mustangs and domestic horses are concerned. That is to say...there are too many, and our economy simply cannot support the numbers we're currently dealing with. Opening slaughter plants will not stop abuse...we know that. But will they reduce abuse? We know that it will provide jobs and help the economy, but at what expense?

There were three speakers that made an impression on me; the first one being Tom Collins of Clark County, Nevada. Mr Collins was obviously not a wild horse fan. There was no mistaking that he wanted wild horses sent to slaughter, end of discussion. I wanted to throw up. Later in the day, Bob Abbey, BLM Director, stated in no uncertain terms that healthy wild horses would not be euthanized. End of discussion. Well...not really, he had more to say, but that one sentence put an end to any further discussion all weekend on sending excess wild horses to slaughter. Sue Wallis stated later that this was never about wild horses, that they make up only 3% of the horses in the US; this was about what was best for the horse economy. Um...Sue? If that was the case, why the lead off paragraph on the Summit website?

Sherrie, Temple Grandin, and myself

But Sue wasn't the third speaker to make an impression. was Dr. Temple Grandin. Oh! I feel as though I've met a Hollywood celebrity! She was absolutely worth the trip. A brilliant speaker, she captured our attention from the beginning and had people sitting on the edge of their seats, straining to hear each and every word. Temple made it clear that she wasn't part of the decision on whether or not slaughter was reinstated for horses, just that if it was, she wanted it to be the safest, most humane method available. She stated often being shipped to Mexico was a horse's worst nightmare, and that needed to stop.

So here's the thing. Temple's goal is to make this the safest, easiest end a horse has to face. Shouldn't that be our goal as well? When I used to consider slaughter, it made me shudder. Not so much that someone would eat a horse (well...not since I was a kid anyway) but the transportation and the cruel way it was carried out. Because we've raised our own food here, we know it needn't be a stressful situation. Small facilities, local and easily accessible, make it easy on those who raise pigs, cows or sheep. Why can't we have something local for horses?

I know I'm going to be slammed if any of the A crowd sees this. They have no desire to learn. But while I sat at the summit, a woman stood up and introduced herself as having a rescue, and told us she was opposed to slaughter. Then she took a deep breath and said that if it were carried out like Dr Grandin suggested it could be, then...and only then...she could see it as something that would be preferable to the abuse and neglect that many horses are facing today. And I've got to tell you, I was overwhelmed with emotion when I listened to her speak. I wanted to run over and hug her. She got it. And she was willing to say that it was about the horse, not her emotions. Would that all horse lovers could figure that out.



MyShilohRanch said...

Hey, Tracey, thanks for your post! At first, I thought the lead statement was YOUR opinion ... and I thought, "oh no, Tracey..." But as I read, I see you are as sickened by Sue Wallis and her agenda, as the rest of us... as I thought. She is a piece of work, isn't she? Something majorly wrong with her!

I know what you mean about Vegas ... ick everywhere! And, oh yes ... a maid ... sigh ... you SHOULD have one ... that is one thing that I regret not making an allotment for. Once a week or once a month would be nice even. What a treat!

I am so glad you went and we can get an unbiased report on the "summit." Yes, repulsive it is, the goal of canning and/or importing our precious wild mustangs. NO FREAKING WAY ... OVER MY DEAD BODY, I would say! I am glad to hear that there were other options discussed. But I do concur, that there was something VERY menacing about the agenda of this "summit."

I am also very concerned about Bob Abbey's statement about "healthy" wild horses not being slaughtered. Especially in Nevada, I have seen for myself, that they habitually cause issues that they define as "non gather related," which actually ARE gather related! I hope he had something more specifically positive to say?

I have an awesome respect for Temple Grandin, after reading her book several years ago. I KNOW that her interest IS, indeed, the HORSES' welfare ... NOT the ulterior motives of the "summit" organizers. Her life goal, is to make it as easy and humane as possible for poor animals that do have to be killed. I totally agree with her that the shipping horses to Mexico has to STOP!

I may not be popular with the "A" team either, but I would rather have more humane and heavily regulated LEGAL slaughter houses than to have our horses sent to illegal slaughter houses, where God-only-knows what horrors our equines are subjected to. I cannot even think of it. You are blessed to have met her in person, Tracey, would love to hear more about what she had to say and what she was like in person!

I also will not be popular with horse breeders. I am sorry, but I agree, there are just TOO many unwanted horses already that need to find forever homes. Just like dogs and cats ... people keep breeding them. I can see why they do, but good grief! The more they breed, the more animals will have to be "euthanized." It is just unconscionable and selfish NOT to look down the long road before you breed! Sorry breeders, I SO get what you do ... but then again ... look a the ugly facts of what happens to the majority NON-superstars!

We need more shows like "Extreme Mustang Makeover." There is nothing like a good reining horse, cutter or fancy show or race horse ... but breeding them is the EASY way to run for the bucks. The REAL challenge is finding the "Secretariat" among all the available horses already out there. MUCH more challenging for the trainers ... they would make less money ... so I don't see it happening. Surely they discussed domestic breeding as contributing to overpopulation ... yes?

Oh yes, Mr. Tom Collins ... does he have much influence? Must be one of Sue's cohorts.

Again, thank you Tracey for your objective and factual report; I much appreciate it! <3

Anonymous said...

Humane slaughter would indeed be preferable to starvation or abuse. I believe there are some models for it in the UK. However, I also believe the people at this summit said they wouldn't be willing to follow Dr. Grandin's recommendations because they would be too expensive.

And, it still doesn't address the fact that we do not raise our horses for slaughter, and we regularly give them drugs that are not considered safe for human consumption. How are they going to cover up that fact?

Jeni said...

I am not educated enough on this subject to comment either way.

Something needs to change and in that I agree.

Screw the "A List" they are probably just as uneducated in the topic as I am but not big enough to admit it.

Tracey thank you for the unbiased report. I look forward to reading more.

Leah Fry said...

I don't normally voice my opinion on slaughter because it is the same as yours. Would I love it if each and every wild horse could be saved? Absolutely. But that has never been a practical solution. We can't convince people to spay and neuter their cats and dogs. What are the odds people buying into a massive campaign to geld wild stallions?

Regulated slaughter, carried out in the most humane way possible is infinitely preferable to starvation or abuse.

Shirley said...

I was wondering about the ulterior motive of this summit when I read the link to their website on your previous post.
How awesome that you got to hear and meet Temple Grandin. To all those who say her methods are too expensive- look what she did for the cattle industry, and look at the costs involved with not having proper slaughter facilities, particularly the cost to horses in abuse and neglect.

Mikey said...

So glad to read this account. Lot of talk about this summit and now I wish I could have been there. I'm glad you went and took your daughter! What a great experience. Dr. Grandin speaking makes the whole trip worthwhile. I'd love to hear her and I'm glad she spoke. Thanks for the inside view.

Tracey said...

Darling posted to her status on FB "Learning more here than I would in school!" She took several pages of notes, but the air quality got to her and she ended up missing Temple :(

Redhorse, you questioned the drugs given to horses that may be in their systems. Having raised sheep here for our own consumption, I can tell you that we use the same drugs on both our horses and sheep. It's the withdrawal that is important.

There was one woman present from Missouri who said she wanted to start a facility there. Her plan was to have a 180 day wait, during which time she welcomed rescues and other individuals to come and provide homes for the horses. We all know, of course, that there are not enough homes.

Jill, I know NV has a far different issue than we do up here. I'd hoped to have enough time to head out and see what the horses were like there, as well as the landscape, but we simply couldn't afford the extra time this trip.

Linda said...

Tracey, I've been waiting for you to come back and report, and I've been following it in the news all week. The front page of their website was confrontational and divisive--which immediately made me uneasy. I didn't see how anyone who could write that would really be looking for a thoughtful, humane solution to cross-country slaughter and Mustang overpopulation.

Anyway, I'm relieved and encouraged to hear that Temple Grandin spoke and, apparently, persuaded and inspired the people there. It sounds like, if nothing else, some other, like-minded people might start looking for real solutions.

As for me, I'm like you with the slaughter question. Personally, I'd never allow it (as long as I'm alive) for any of my horses. They come here to live with me, and they will die here, too. But that doesn't change the fact that many horses, of all ages, are going through the auctions and being picked up at low prices by the kill-buyer--then hauled, scared to death, across country to unregulated slaughter houses.

Blob said...

Was there much talk about euthanasia as an alternative?

I know it makes a lot of people feel better. Personally, for a horse that isn't sick, I think humane slaughter is preferable to euthanasia, which just seems like a waste of a body.

but I'd be curious to hear what the discussion was around the euthanasia option.

Tracey said...

There really wasn't any euthansia talk as an alternative to slaughter. The whole goal of the summit was to open slaughter houses, regardless of what they wanted to spin. There was talk about property rights and HSUS...both very valuable in their own right...but really what they wanted was slaughter. Eases the glut on the market, puts people back to work. Done right, I haven't got a problem with it. Trouble is, who's going to monitor?

Blob said...

well, to be fair the slaughter of wild horses is probably the only kind of horse meat that might be safe for consumption. Any horse that has ever had bute or a wormer (which is almost all and any domestically owned horses) is not safe for human consumption and buted horses are not safe for animal consumption either. So, given that, it might bet he USDF that has to monitor the slaughter in work with the BLM.

The dangerous thing, however, is given that wild horses are probably the only real consumption worthy available animals as opposed to those that are just 'unwanted' pets or horses too old or lame to earn their keep, they run the risk of being over-slaughtered if the demand calls for it, which means that pretty soon what is or isn't adoptable will become a blurry line. Sadly I think the demand for the meat will be higher than the demand for adopting mustangs. But maybe that might leave more room for PR and options like the prison programs and TIP programs.

Rising Rainbow said...

Amen, sister! It all comes down to what is good for the horse to me.

I suspected this was all about slaughter and getting it reinstated under whatever umbrella of need they could manipulate. I like you am not opposed to it if it is done in a manner that is safe and humane and that includes transport and all those other nasty little things that make it so horrible for the horse. I wonder if we are going to have a reasonable solution anytime soon.

I might also add I, for one, do not believe that returning slaughter to the US will either fix the economy, the glut of unwanted horses or the over population of mustangs. I do think it will have an effect on those things but it is NOT the solution, just one little piece in a much bigger picture.

Patricia Barlow-Irick said...

I think the only way to have humane slaughter is to have mobile units that go to the horse where they live. It's the transport and holding that are the cruelest parts. A community based plant would be a second choice, but no holding facilities. Get it over with ASAP in a humane way.

But the problem is that the BLM is out removing so many that there are genetic bottlenecks and inbreeding that are going to drive the herds into extinction. You can't leave less than 100 horses without that problem. When I see an HMA with 7 horses, well, that's not remotely viable. They might as well have taken them all.

Slaughter just gives them a much too easy way to dispose of the horses they round up. So stopping slaughter is like stopping storage of nuclear waste. It creates a problem at the front end and forces some alternative behaviors.