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HORSES CAN’T SPEAK FOR THEMSELVES

Congratulations to Suzanne Porter, our new Director of Animal Affairs.

Running into my old friend, Judy, from Fairview Bed & Breakfast at an antique store in downtown Lynchburg, Virginia last weekend, I mentioned to her that I was working on an article for THE PSYCHIC BUBBLE on Madeleine Pickins and her foundation, Saving America’s Mustangs. Judy replied, “Good grief, are they still going on about that?. Do you remember that burro we used to have at the bed & breakfast back in 1997? He was adopted from that program to save wild mustangs and burros.”  Doing the math (2010 minus 1997), I came up with 13 years! Yes, for 13 years the American people have been petitioning our government to save wild mustangs and burros and so far we have gotten nowhere. We are now down to the last 12,000 mustangs and an unnamed number of burros and are still being ignored by our haughty, haughty government. It took the near collapse of ours and the world’s financial systems for our elected officials who seem to forget where their salaries come from to even begin to address some of our country’s deepest problems. So if you are a horse lover and want the government to stop their position of animal cruelty towards wild horses (mustangs), now is the time to stand up and be counted.

The horse species (Equus) evolved and was indigenous to North America but died out at the end of the last ice age approximately 10,000 to 12,000 year ago. Thus, it seems appropriate that North America be populated by wild horses. The American mustang evolved from horses first brought to the Americas by the Spanish. Starting around the time of Columbus, horses descended from Spanish horses, were brought to Mexico and Florida. Most of these horses were of Andalusian, Arabian, and Barb ancestry. Some escaped or were stolen by Native Americans and rapidly spread throughout the western North America. Native Americans quickly adopted the horse as a primary means of transportation. They replaced the dog as a travois puller and greatly improved success in battles, trade, hunts, and in particular, bison hunts. In the Colonial era and continuing with the westward expansion of the 1800′s, horses belonging to explorers, traders, and settlers that escaped or were purposely released joined the gene pool of Spanish-descended herds. It was a common practice for western ranchers to release their horses to locate forage for themselves in the winter and then recapture them as well as any additional mustangs in the spring.

Since 1900 North America had an estimated two million free-roaming horses. During that time mustangs were viewed as a resource that could be captured and used or sold (especially for military use or slaughtered for food, especially pet food). The controversial practice of “mustanging” was dramatized in the John Huston film “The Misfits,” and abuses linked to certain capture methods, including hunting from airplanes and poisoning led to the first (feral) wild free-roaming horse protection law in 1959. Protection was increased further by the “Wild Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Act of 1971.” Today the United States Forest Service administers 37 wild horse or burro territories in several western states.

In 1971 the United States Congress recognized mustangs as “livings symbols of the historic and pioneer spirit of the West” which enrich the lives of the American people. And then what did they do? They started a Bureau of Land Management under the now Interior Department Secretary Kenneth Salazar. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is tasked with managing these wild horses to insure that healthy herds thrive. Shooting them or poisoning them is, under the 1971 Act, a criminal felony.

Healthy, adult mustangs have few natural predators aside from mountain lions. To maintain population balance and to make room for cattle, some people say, (please pay attention here) an argument that mustangs are encroaching on cattle grazing land is made though it is well-known that mustangs live in arid areas which cattle cannot fully utilize due to lack of water resources. Horses are better adapted by evolution to lack of water resources and can travel 50 miles a day. They can also obtain adequate nutrition from poorer forage than can cattle, surviving in areas where cattle would starve. The Bureau of Land Management’s responsibility is to determine an appropriate management level of wild horses and burros on public rangelands (lands belonging to the American people) dedicated specifically for wild horses and burros. There are specific guidelines for techniquess used to round up mustangs. One method uses a tamed horse, called a “Judas horse.” (We all remember Judas from the Bible, don’t we?) The Judas horse leads the wild horses into a pen; then the Judas horse is released–job done! And the wild horses, finding themselves penned up, are terrified, rearing up, screaming and colliding with one another. Very often foals are separated from their mares. These captured horses are then offered for adoption to individuals willing to provide humane, long-term care after payment of an adoption fee ranging from $25.00 to $125.00. In order to prevent the later sale of mustangs as horse meat, adopted mustangs are still protected under the 1971 Act and cannot be sold in the first year except when VERY SPECIFIC CRITERIA are met. Smell a rat, yet?

At the moment, there are about 30,000 mustangs in holding facilities, butt to butt, and the taxpayers are footing the bill. The BLM is considering euthanasia as a possible solution. In January 2005 a Congress by former Senator Conrad Burns, “The Burns Rider,” modified the adoption program to allow the sale (with the usual result being slaughter) of captured horses that are more than 10 years old. A horse is fully capable of living 20 years or more. In the 110th U. S. Congress, legislation was introduced to have the “Burns rider” repealed and the original language restored. (We are paying a Congress to do all of this!) The matter passed the house but as of mid-2008 awaited action in the Senate. In early 2009 the House passed H.R. 1018, the Restore Our Mustangs Act (ROAM). ROAM amends the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act to expand criminal penalties and would ban the processing and the transport for processing of “a live or deceased wild free-roaming horse or burro.” There are also increased efforts to assist with finding appropriate adoption homes. At this point I’m thinking — which countries eat horse meat?

Enter the lovely, English-born Madeleine Pickins, wife of a gone-green oilman. On the “Breakfast Club Show,” on www.kezw recently she was interviewed and tells of her passion for saving the “old West,” and how she loves cowboy movies. She is heartsick to know that only 15,000 or less of these American mustangs still exist and she cries out to Americans to have a say in our national history. She tells of her plan to save our treasure, the mustangs. She and her husband have purchased 14,000 acres in Nevada dedicated to the mustang and is requesting an additional 590,000 public lands to go with it to be fenced in as a public sanctuary for the mustangs, no cattle. A park where people could visit would be created. She has been ignored by Secretary of the Interior Kenneth Salazar and BLM Director Robert V. Abbey to have 20,000 electronic emails sent in to petition the government to stop the BLM’s horrific summer roundup by helicopter. Yes, they are rounding up wild horses by helicopter. What part of “Yee, Haa, don’t you get?” This is cruelty to animals in a particularly unorthodox way — not part of the current law on rounding them up.

Madeleine has met their cruelty with creative imagination. She had 30,000 letters protesting this roundup delivered to them by the old American Pony Express. Two ponies with saddle bags delivered the letters to the Capitol. We are awaiting the answer.

Watch for Madeleine and her ponies in the Rose Bowl Parade in Pasadena on New Year’s Day!

Contributor:  Suzanne Porter, Director of Animal Affairs for THE PSYCHIC BUBBLE.

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Posted in Animals and Social Commentary and The U.S. Government by The Psychic Bubble on September 19th, 2010 at 10:40 PM.

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