Your Tax Dollars At Work!!!
Feral Horses Sold for Cat Food!

Feral horses/Wall Street Journal Article
   Author:   M. Brumbaugh 
   Date: 1998/08/25
   Forums: rec.equestrian
The following is from today's (8/25) Wall Street Journal.  Center
column, front page.
  Wild No More:
  The Odyssey Begins
  For Horse 96563288
  Bureau of Land Management
  Saves Animals and Juggles
  Rigid Competing Interests
  By John J. Fialka
  Staff Reporter of The Wall Street Journal
The Wall Street Journal via Dow Jones
  SPARKS, Nev. -- The switch from being a wild horse to a ward of the
federal government takes just three minutes. The little brown stallion
is prodded into a padded metal box, gets his teeth checked, is
vaccinated and wormed and then gets a freeze-dried mark with his new
name: 96563288.
  The box opens and 96563288 stumbles out. He sees a metal barrier and
runs at it with his head. He is two years old, the equivalent of a
teenager in horse years. The jaunty look he gives a visitor as he shrugs
off the blow and prances out a gate seems to say, "Hey, no problem." 
  While his journey to domesticity is just beginning, biologists here see
a paradox. They believe there is much to be learned from wild horses,
especially the order, the trust and the family relationships within the
herds that help the horses survive harsh desert conditions. 
  But the federal program that captured 96563288, on a mountain range
about 70 miles north of this suburb of Reno, is likely to be a wild
experience. It will introduce him to the results of deception, political
correctness, discrimination, endless litigation and, perhaps, to a trainer
who is a convicted criminal. 
  If 96563288 survives all that, there is still a chance he will wind up
as cat food. This is the U.S. Bureau of Land Management's "Wild Horse and
Burro Program," mandated by Congress in 1971 to save the nation's wild
horses from being rounded up by cowboys called "mustangers" and sold to
slaughterhouses. When the $18 million program started, there were between
10,000 and 17,000 wild horses; now, BLM estimates the number at 43,000. 
  About half of them live in Nevada, where the herds are breeding at a
prodigious rate. There, numbers are increasing by 24% a year, galloping
far ahead of the BLM's efforts to find some of them new homes through its
national adoption effort. 
  In order to manage the herd sizes and minimize complaints of ranchers,
who pay a fee to graze their cows on federal land, BLM rounds up 10,000
horses a year. Through its adoption program, it finds homes for 7,000 to
8,000 of them, but this year the figure will be lower because the drought
in the South has driven up the price of hay, making people see pet horses
as a more expensive venture. The unadopted go to a BLM farm in Oklahoma,
and BLM is thinking about starting another facility in Arizona as an
overflow site. 
  What to do? Ranchers, who claim wild horses strip the range of forage
that they need for cattle, have an alternative solution. 
  "There are a lot of horses that are there to be eaten," argued Demar
Dahl, a local rancher, at a recent hearing here by a panel of the House
Resources Committee. Ranchers send their excess horses to slaughter. Why
can't BLM? he wondered. The answer is that if BLM even considered such a
policy, it would be sued by animal-rights groups that have, thus far,
hog-tied the agency and stymied the ranchers in court. 
  "If there was a way of having [BLM] do something besides us always
having to sue them, that would be wonderful," sighs Cleveland Amory, 80,
the writer and leader of the Fund for Animals, in New York. 
  Joel Berger, a biologist at the University of Nevada here, argues that
both cattle and horse herds should be reduced to save the range and that
scientists must study the horses' ability, in droughts for instance, to
outsurvive everything else on four feet, including deer, antelope and
cattle. "It tells you the horses are doing something right." 
  Before he was caught and numbered, 96563288 was horsing around with a
group of young stallions one recent morning, when a helicopter swooped
down, pushing them toward a weed-strewn gully. The horses were frightened,
but 96563288 was comforted to see a little brown mare running ahead of
him. Herds normally follow savvy lead mares, so he fell in behind her. 
  It was 96563288's introduction to deception. The "Judas horse"  belongs
to Dave Cattoor, 56, a lean former mustanger hired by BLM to collect wild
horses. Mr. Cattoor was hiding in the weeds. As 96563288 approached, he
released the mare and it led the stallions right into a camouflaged pen.
Before 96563288 knew it, the gates clanged shut behind him. 
  The stallions were herded into a large red truck. As the animals milled
about, it sounded like 49 tap dancers practicing solo routines. 
Litigation has much to do with this. A suit by a local rancher forces BLM
to reduce the size of 96563288's herd. Pressure from horse groups enforces
a kind of political correctness on the cowboys. 
  "We don't call these roundups, we call them gatherings," explains Maxine
F. Shane, a spokeswoman for BLM, who says roundups were much more violent.
Old mustangers used lassos and whips. Mr. Cattoor's men have whips, but
with plastic garbage bags tied to the tips. It's the rustling sound of the
bags that moves the horses. 
  An older woman wearing jeans, a flowery blouse and a leather baseball
cap smokes a cigarette as she watches the horses from outside the pen.
This is Dawn Y. Lappin, the head of Wild Horse Organized Assistance, or
WHOA. She helped BLM organize its adoption program and is a moderate among
animal-rights leaders. 
  She thinks that unhealthy, deformed or crippled horses chased in by the
helicopter ought to be shot. Though BLM has the legal power to do that,
she says the idea makes some of the agency's people jumpy. "I've been out
on the range begging them to destroy horses that weren't fit for
shipping," she says. "They wouldn't do it if I wasn't there."  Sometimes
they do. 
  As the big red truck pulls away, 96563288 gets his first glimpse of
discrimination. The oldest horses are left behind. BLM releases them
because they aren't likely to be adopted. When the truck arrives here at
BLM's wild-horse reception center, a former cattle feedlot, Sharon
Kipping, its manager, muses about 96563288's chances
  "He's just a little bay horse," she says. "He's young, but he won't be
adopted here." Another of BLM's problems is that most horse adopters come
here looking for pretty, docile female horses, not wild brown stallions.
She says that means 96563288 will be sent to one of BLM's other adoption
sites or to its "Inmate Gentling Program." 
  That program, operated at two state prisons, came after a suit by Mr.
Amory. He stopped BLM from waiving its adoption fees -- which start at
$125 -- after learning that some bargain-rate adopters were reselling
horses to slaughterhouses. So BLM came up with a cheap but innovative way
of training horses to fetch higher prices. 
  It isn't clear what 96563288 might learn from the inmates of "Horse
Hill," a state-prison honor camp near Riverton, Wyo., but Mike Buchanan,
supervisor for the program, says the inmates have much to learn from him.
Most are young city men with drug and alcohol problems who have never seen
a horse close up. 
  The inmates and the horses, he says, "are about as scared of each other
as we are to face a mountain lion." Soon, he says, the horses learn to
walk through gates and to accept a saddle and rider. Inmates learn that
trust works, and they develop a sense of self-confidence and
responsibility. That works a kind of alchemy. Inmates get jobs as cowboys.
Horses find new homes. "We just sold a little paint the other day for
$1,000," he says. 

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