Washington Plans Mass Slaughter of America’s Mustangs


Pressure from cattle-ranching industry could lead to more than 30,000 horses being ‘culled’

[Washington Plans Mass Slaughter of America's Wild Mustangs ] 
Wild mustangs, those 
quintessential symbols of the American West for
hundreds of years, are facing their most deadly predator yet: the
pen-pushing civil servants of the US Bureau of Land Management.
Growing pressure on the horses’ traditional habitat has left
officials contemplating a program of mass slaughter to reduce the
number of mustangs held captive in government-run pens. More than
33,000 of the animals, almost as many as the number still in the wild,
have been rounded up and taken off increasingly barren public land in
recent years, to reduce pressure on grazing required by the
cattle-ranching industry.

But the increasing cost of keeping them
fed and watered has left the Bureau of Land Management (BLM)
contemplating a program of what it calls “euthanasia” – sending healthy
horses to slaughterhouses where they are likely to be turned into steak
for export to France.

The proposal sparked outrage from
conservationists when it was outlined in a recent Government
Accountability Office report, with welfare groups accusing the BLM of
holding an unnecessarily high number of mustangs in captivity in order
to appease the politically powerful ranching lobby.

“They say
there are too many horses left on the range, and that they need to
gather them all the time,” said Jerry Reynoldson of the Wild Horse
Adoption Association. “But there are only 30,000 left in the wild, and
they’re spread over 10 states. In Nevada alone, the BLM controls 47
million acres. But the ranchers control economic forces and pay
lobbyists in Washington, so they give the horses short shrift and
convince the authorities that they need to be taken off the land.”

say slaughter would mark an ignominious end for a creature that arrived
in North America with the Spanish conquistadors in the 16th century,
and which once existed in such numbers that maps of Texas from the
1700s marked many areas as simply: “vast herds of wild horses”. Deanne
Stillman, author of a new book, Mustang: The Saga of the Wild Horse in the American West,
said: “Horses blazed our trails, they fought our wars, they are the
greatest icons of freedom. The word ‘euthanasia’ suggests that the BLM
will be putting these horses out of their misery. But they are not in
misery in the first place. It’s the most cynical thing I’ve ever heard.”

33,100 mustangs are left in the wild, roaming in 199 herds. Because the
animals have few natural predators left and do not provide sport for
hunters, government officials say a quota must be taken into captivity
each year. Some of the captive horses are adopted by members of the
public, but supply has outstripped demand in recent years, and the BLM
says drastic action is needed to reduce the number in captivity, which
cost $21m (£14m) a year to feed. “We don’t want to do euthanasia, but
we are up against the wall on our budget,” a spokesman told USA Today.

only hope for many horses may lie with Madeleine Pickens, wife of the
Texan oil billionaire T Boone Pickens, who recently announced that she
was trying to establish a million-acre refuge where all captive
mustangs can be released. Her plan will see private land turned into a
rural theme park where Americans can interact with the mustangs. Its
announcement persuaded the BLM to grant captive horses a stay of
execution until the New Year.

“We will take all the excess
horses,” Mrs Pickens explained, “and put them somewhere where families
can see them and live among them, and camp out in teepees and have
bonfires and look up at the stars and get to know this incredible
aspect of our heritage.”


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