Sunday, October 16, 2016

It’s time to come to terms with euthanizing wild horses

by Maddy Butcher

...The board’s dramatic recommendation is reminiscent of the prospective Superfund designation of my nearby community of Silverton, Colorado, site of last year’s disastrous
Gold King Mine spill. Both attempt to address a long history of citizen and government irresponsibility. Each of them proposes a solution that’s as hard to swallow as it is necessary. Few of the many fractured parties find it palatable, but no one is offering better solutions. 
As horrifying as its recommendation may seem, the advisory group was only trying to rectify bad decisions regarding wild horses that date back generations. It’s a chronicle that’s echoed by the long history of corporate malfeasance in the mining world.

Who, and what, have led us to this point? The simple answer is our forefathers, who thought it was OK to turn unwanted horses out into open country. Those domestic-turned-wild horses have done all too well on our public lands. The number of offspring of former Army horses, frontier horses and ranch horses doubles every five years.

Feral horses may have irreversibly degraded millions of acres of rangeland, as the advisory board members discovered on a recent field trip to Antelope Valley, Nevada. They viewed miles of high desert land untouched by cattle yet devastated by the intense grazing of wild horses.

If the horses weren’t so pretty, as well as being an icon of the Old West, we would call them “invasive,” and we would have sought more effective, less emotion-driven and politicized ways to manage them long ago. Do we have a romantic term for feral cats? Does the average taxpayer recognize how much damage both feral cats and feral horses do to the environment?

For decades, our government has rounded up the free-roaming horses and burros, removing them from the wild only to create more space and available resources for the equines left behind. The Bureau of Land Management’s strategy, in fact, has had exactly the opposite effect as intended. The wild populations have flourished because of it, not despite it. The National Academy of Sciences said as much in its 630-page publication, Using Science to Improve the BLM Wild Horse and Burro Program: A Way Forward, released in 2013.

Our government has also dragged its feet on pursuing humane population control options, like darting mares with a fertility control vaccine called PZP (porcine zona pellucida). Instead, it invested in risky, inhumane sterilization procedures, which produced horrible results and subjected the agency to several lawsuits. The agency also continued to hold counterproductive roundups that only galvanized more protesters and spurred more lawsuits.

Certain activist groups say the feral horses and burros have more claim to the land than any other animals. They believe the equines deserve to live untouched and untethered lives, all other considerations be damned. They leverage romance, Old West ideals and widespread ignorance to fan the flames of public outrage. They like to use the word “mustang,” but do they really know what that word means? It comes from the Spanish word mestengo, and it means “stray.”...

1 comment:

drjohn said...

100,000 and still growing at a cost of five hundred thousand each day and in the mean time a baby dies every five seconds in this world not counting those in this country that go to bed hungry every night. There is a solution and slaughtering them for food is one of them. reproduction can be controlled by using naturally infertile stallions as in cryptorchids. Also removing mares instead of stallions from the range.