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 LandsIf 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.
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?
But Sue wasn't the third speaker to make an impression. Indeed...it 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.