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The Argument against Mustang Roundups

Published: 10/29/2012
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By Maddy Butcher Gray

I like to stay away from politics but recent articles and investigations have me stirred up.
Plus, t’is the season.
So, let me congratulate both Democrats and Republicans for the growing debacle that is American Mustang policy. And then, let me offer a solution that should please them both.

First, the Big Picture:
Wild horse herds have roamed the western United States for hundreds of years, way before Vaqueros. Over time, millions of acres have gone from unowned to owned. The wildlife on this land has been hunted, left alone, eliminated, ignored, protected, or domesticated. It depends on the species, the season, or the winds of public sentiment.

In the last few decades, the cattle industry and Washington have agreed to let millions of cows graze on the huge swaths of land owned by the federal government. Big Beef has convinced the feds that cows are more important than most any other animal, including the mustangs.

How the Big Picture translates in the Day-to-Day:

The Bureau of Land Management, under the auspices of the Department of the Interior, rounds up mustangs so cows can graze in their ranges. Tens of thousands of mustangs have been pushed by helicopters off their territory and forced into corrals.
Theoretically, they are cared for, vetted, and adopted by fine, charitable, respectable horse folks. In reality, and most acutely in the last 10 years, most of them suffer immensely before being sold for slaughter.
In numbingly painful reports, the non-partisan investigative journalists at Pro Publica found this to be true. Another report in the Atlantic Monthly provides graphic and historical perspectives.
Horse meat is preferred over beef in some parts of the world, but here it’s not legal. So wild horses are bought illicitly, stuffed into transporters, and hauled to Mexico and Canada.
In essence, the government is sponsoring, even subsidizing illegal slaughter.

Disregard the fact that mustangs are seen by many as national treasures.
Take away how much we owe the species for our own advancement as a society.

It’s simply illegal. Mustang purchasers must sign documents stating they will not resell them for slaughter.

But there’s still more dysfunction in the mustang policy and its implementation:

Can we say “welfare state?”
A welfare state is a population totally reliant on government assistance. No one likes a welfare state – not the public, not the government, not even those on welfare. Taxpayers suffer. Those on welfare, in this case, the mustangs, suffer more.

  • It’s absurd and duplicitous, then, that those who abhor welfare the most (Republicans, led by Big Beef and ranchers) are most responsible for creating and perpetuating it.
  • It’s also absurd and cruelly ironic that domestic animals have the run of federal land while the wild animals get penned up.
  • It’s wrong that criminals and only criminals profit from this arrangement.

Here’s an idea that should please both parties:
  • Let the mustangs go.
  • Put cattle in the pens. Give them the same government hay. Send them to slaughter. Share the profits.
  • Let the natural pressures of starvation and predation control the mustang population.
  • No helicopter roundups. No public outcry. No illegal profiteering. Animals in their proper places. Money correctly and justly allocated. Resources wisely used.
Heck, cow manure produces much more methane than horse manure. There’s an immediate spin-off industry right there.
Anyway you spin it, there’s a lot more right with this proposal than what we’re doing now.

View Reader Comments:

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10/29/2012 Carl Johnson
Bravo Maddy, after all, the land was supposed to be for the mustangs in the first place. Finally something that makes sense in this whole mess. Well said!
10/29/2012 Linda Libby
I so agree with your story Maddy. I have ridden in the Pryor Mtns a number of years ago. And saw some of these Mustangs. They are part of our legacy. But big money rules and the Mustangs suffer for it. Very sad.

"Nothing on four legs is quicker than a horse heading back to the barn" - Pamela C. Biddle/Joel E. Fishman