Here I go leaning toward the political side again. No, nothing directed at the elected president, although, Lord knows, there’s abundant fodder to chew on in that regard. Instead, my comments pertain to a social media post that pinpoints Congress, and a supposed bill the House approved this year that would allow wild horses to be slaughtered for food. Because I’m a horse lover, the posting riled me. But…
Over the years, I’ve learned that dogmatic folks’ personal interpretations can often distort reality. So, unless I’m well-informed about a controversial topic, I usually fact check before offering accolades or condemnations. In this case, I chose Snopes.com as my true-false-or-both source.
According to the Snopes article, ‘no specific vote allowing the slaughter of horses for human consumption was taken; the committee did approve a bill that would allow for wild horses to be slaughtered, but the author specified that it would not be for food.’ Basically, the bill was a budget-driven measure that ended the ban on US Department of Agriculture (USDA) funding for inspections of horse slaughterhouses, which leads me to believe that Congress feels it’s fine to slaughter horses, just don’t eat them. Which also prompts me to ask, why slaughter them at all? What purpose is being served? Or, is the better question, who is being served by the horses’ demise?
One of the Representatives involved with an amendment included in the bill stated that the reported 67,000 wild horses on public lands are “crowding out the deer and the elk” and “destroying the range.” Now, a few things to consider: Horses are grazers; deer and elk are grazers and browsers, which means deer and elk will eat most anything that’s green (or used to be), whether it sprouts from the ground or hangs from a bush or a tree. Horses occupy the plains; deer and elk roam a much broader terrain, which provides them a greater food source. On the other hand, as a Ranger in Rocky Mountain National Park, I witnessed what over-browsing can do.
Rocky’s situation involved elk overpopulation. With limited natural predation, the ever-expanding elk herds destroyed vegetation, which afforded the deer less to eat and effectively shrank their population. The solution: revitalizing vegetation and culling to control elk herd sizes. Isn’t culling another term for slaughtering, you ask? Considering fewer animals will inhabit the earth, yes. But, the number of animals taken depended upon overall herd size––at or below the manageable number: zero culled; above the manageable number: only enough culled to restore the manageable size. In the process, diseased animals were removed; meat from healthy animals was donated to organizations that helped the needy. As a result, the condition of the elk and deer herds has improved, as well as Park landscapes.
In regard to the slaughter of wild horses, from my perspective there appears to remain issues that need to be more thoroughly researched and addressed. If overpopulation truly exists, damage to the landscape and the health of the herd can definitely occur. However, let’s ensure the ends justify the means before haphazardly destroying one of the more beautiful creatures on this planet.
I leave you with an equine inspired poem, taken from my Coyote Moon collection. Thanks for stopping by.
Beauty, Spirit and Pride
Their thundering hooves divot the ground
Magnificent creatures known the world ’round
Some entered their lives nobly at birth
Centuries old, they have proven their worth
Others were born on deserts and plains
To live wild and free, no stables or reins
Man, in this critter, envisioned grand strength
Harnessed its power to test at great length
From travel, herding, and pulling a plow
To pleasure and sport, but picture this now
Its head leans forward; its nostrils flare
Its soul in the moment, no other cares
Its lungs breathe cadence; tail to the wind
Gaze in awe of the character within
Rippling muscles gleam in the sun
No doubt this animal was born to run
Despite the critter’s thousand pound girth
There’s nothing you’ll see on God’s green earth
That matches the beauty, spirit and pride
Of a galloping horse, with legs at full stride