They Shoot Horses

By Beacon Staff

Since Congress passed the first wild-horse-and-burro laws in 1971, national policy on wild horses – which mostly roam land managed by the Bureau of Land Management, with half of the total in Nevada – has gotten crazier and crazier.

This year, BLM estimated there are 29,500 wild horses on public lands. Since 2001, BLM has had to remove 74,000 from public lands, but was able to sell or find adoption buyers for only 46,400.

The leftover 30,000 horses are in “holding facilities,” meaning there are more “wild” horses in pens than in the “wild.” BLM’s bill for holding these animals is expected to hit over $30 million this year alone, thanks at least in part to feed costs. In August of 2007, alfalfa was $9 a bale in Nevada. This year it’s $18.

That means taxpayers are now paying a grand a year to warehouse animals that BLM can’t sell for a measly $125 “adoption fee” – that gets you a healthy horse with all its shots.

So, to gasps of joy, oil baroness Madeleine Pickens (wife of oily billionaire T. Boone Pickens) announced on Nov. 19 that she would be “adopting” the surplus horses and buying “control” of a million acres to house them.

Mrs. Pickens told the Washington Post her new ranch will be an “eco-vacation spot. Could you imagine taking your kids there, staying on the range in log cabins or tepees?”

Well, Mrs. Pickens, a speculator tried that in Wyoming. He wanted to put 5,000 horses on 23,000 acres (talk about horse-bit ground) and sell “shares” for the herd’s support. Nobody bought.

A few days after Mrs. Pickens announced her plan, there was a sad story in the Missoulian about how folks can’t give away their domestic horses, either. The star of the story was a seven-month-old, quarter-cross filly named Mocha. She’d be a good horse, I suppose, yet Mocha was bid at $15. Her owner bought her back for $62.

People with extra horses, wild or domestic, can’t even give them away, anywhere in the U.S. Oh, the Belgians, Italians, French and Japanese want them … for supper, but we can’t do that anymore.

The last American horse slaughterhouses, located in Illinois and Texas, closed in 2007.

They were shut down by court rulings that upheld state laws outlawing the facilities. Meanwhile, in 2006, our brilliant U.S. House passed a national horse-slaughter ban bill. It fell to Westerners such as Montana’s Conrad Burns to spike the legislation in the Senate.

But now America has no place to usefully process horsemeat. Further, nobody is stupid enough to build in another state with a national ban in Congress’s inbox.

U.S. Department of Agriculture statistics showed a total of 138,206 American horses “processed” in 2006; 102,260 went to U.S. facilities, 24,866 to Canadian facilities and 11,080 to Mexican facilities.

In 2007, exports of horses to Mexico for slaughter had increased 312 percent, from 10,000 per year to more than 45,000. To Canada, exports increased 41 percent, to 35,000. That’s 80,000, leaving 58,000 horses to be … what? Hauled to the sticks in the dark of night and dumped? Shot, or starved, and bulldozed under?

And get this: When Congress was considering the failed national ban, none other than Madeleine and T. Boone Pickens paid to run full page ads in USA Today and several other major newspapers supporting the bill.

Only in America, folks. I mean, does Mrs. Pickens have even the faintest clue that the problem she expects to “solve” is partly her fault? What will happen when she dies or divorces T. Boone? Is she planning to adopt the 7,000-11,000 horses BLM rounds up every year?

And what about all those unwanted domestic horses like Mocha?

Have Mrs. Pickens and other horse “advocates” thought that far ahead? Frankly, I wonder if they can, and that’s a tragedy.

When policy is driven by those emotionally unable to understand that good intentions don’t always lead to good outcomes … well, I’m not shocked when they shoot horses.

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