As if the situation were not disturbing enough, wild horses are once again heading for the gallows. Thanks to a report just issued by the GAO, the Bureau of Land Management - tasked with overseeing the country's mustang populations - should implement euthanasia as a tool in handling wild horse populations. That means that the 30,000 wild horses now in government housing (more than are in the wild) may soon be eradicated - the result of a decades-long war against the wild horse that has reached its crescendo under the Bush administration, and is now fueled by cost-cutting hysteria sweeping federal agencies.
As I ask in my recently published book Mustang: The Saga of the Wild Horse in the American West, why are we, a cowboy nation, destroying the horse we rode in on? This is a difficult question, and now is the time to put it to rest. Surely, even considering the financial condition of the country, we can take care of our wild horses - and more importantly, can we really put a price on our heritage? (And on a side note: what bizarre, subterranean impulse led the BLM to first float the euthanasia plan on July 4th - the day on which America was born in hoofsparks - and the GAO to publish its findings on Veteran's Day - when we ought to remember our equine war partners as well: in the Civil War, for example, 1.5 million horses and mules were killed or died of illness while serving - at least 5000 at Gettysburg alone).
Please get in touch with President-elect Obama, as well as your representatives and senators, and let them know that a) the extermination of our great partner - the wild horse - is not how you would like your tax dollars to be spent; b) Congress should take a hard look at exactly why so many wild horses have been rounded up in recent years, and c) getting rid of the wild horse is un-American.
Incidentally, Obama was a backer of the anti-slaughter legislation that Congress passed a couple of years ago, shutting down the country's three remaining, and foreign-owned, horse rendering plants. This legislation was passed by a huge margin, thanks to a massive grass-roots campaign kicked into high gear after the previous official death sentence for wild horses was enacted - a rollback in the law that protects them orchestrated by former Montana Senator Conrad Burns. The original law, the Free-Roaming Wild Horse and Burro Act, was signed iin 1971 by Richard Nixon, who, in a bizarre footnote to history, quoted Thoreau in an impassioned defense of the wild horse at the signing ceremony. The Burns rollback paved the way for the current disaster.
Now is the time for citizens to stand up for wild horses - the animal that blazed our trails, fought our wars, and at this very moment is making its last stand. As the great cowboy scribe Will James wrote years ago, "They really belong not to man, but to that country of junipers and sage, of deep arroyos, mesas - and freedom."
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