The worst sin toward our fellow creatures is not to hate them, but to be indifferent to them: that's the essence of inhumanity. -George Bernard Shaw

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Mustang selloff stirs fears over their fate

A wild horse from Southeast Oregon finds a home, but fans of the animals say others could end up in foreign meat markets ...MICHAEL MILSTEIN, the Oregonian...
Horse number 92015845, holding his head tall, had a dignity that Karen Sisson saw in his pictures on the Internet.

"I knew if I could let him keep that dignity, I had to do it," said Sisson, who lives on Florida's eastern coast. "It would be worth any price."

...The law orders federal land managers to offload horses in captivity that are running up government costs, but horse defenders worry unwanted herds will end up as meat in overseas markets.

Sisson, fearing the 13-year-old horse otherwise could be sold for slaughter, quickly paid $1,501 for it earlier this month after spotting the animal on a federal Web site.

"When I saw those Oregon stallions and knew they could go to a really horrible life, I decided if I could get one and help him have a good life, I would," she said.

While animal protection groups and several lawmakers are trying to overturn the sale provisions, land managers across the West are struggling to find buyers like Sisson. Six Oregon horses have been sold so far, while Native American tribes and horse rescue groups have bought another roughly 500 horses from various states...

Late last year, U.S. Sen. Conrad Burns, R-Mont., tucked a provision into a giant federal budget ordering the sale of the unwanted horses. It instructs the BLM to sell horses older than 10 years, along with horses offered for adoption three times without success.

...Horse defenders did not learn of the provision until it was too late to fight it.

Burns said the measure gives the BLM more tools to manage excess horses. He has support from ranchers who have pressed for control of herds that gobble grass otherwise used by cattle and wildlife.

...A national campaign led Congress to protect wild horses in 1971 as "living symbols of the historic and pioneer spirit of the West," ending their commercial slaughter by the thousands.

But horsemeat remains a sought-after meal in some countries. U.S. processors last year exported nearly $40 million worth of domestic horsemeat, mainly to France, Belgium, Mexico and Switzerland.

...Some groups contend the BLM is too closely aligned with the cattle industry and rounds up too many wild horses to make room for livestock. A new bill, H.R. 297, would restore the prohibition on the sale of horses. It has been referred to the House Subcommittee on Forests and Forest Health.

"I don't think there is enough room in the system for all these horses or all the others they're going to bring off the range," said Jill Starr, president of Lifesavers Wild Horse Rescue in Bakersfield, Calif., which bought 13 horses this month for $1 each...

Michael Milstein: 503-294-7689;


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