Staci Matlock | The New Mexican --April 17, 2005
America’s mustangs have long been caught somewhere between a romantic notion depicted in films like The Misfits — and a bullet.
Public outcry against the slaughter of the wild horses through the 1950s and ’60s spurred Congress to pass the 1971 Wild Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Act, declaring the mustangs a living symbol of the historic and pioneering spirit of the West and ordering federal agencies to protect them.
Three decades later, the agencies deal with an ongoing dilemma: what to do with the animals, including 34,000 wild horses and burros roaming Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service lands in 10 Western states and the 24,000 captured mustangs currently living in BLM holding facilities at a cost of $20 million a year.
Mustang advocates say too many are being taken off the range, and ranchers say the horses need to be better managed.
Recently, Congress made it easier for them to be sent to slaughter. A controversial amendment to the 1971 law passed last December allows new owners to claim immediate title to the animals, instead of waiting for a year as required in the federal mustang-adoption program.
Now, more than 8,000 horses are on the sale block. These usually are mustangs over the age of 10 and not adopted after three tries. They sell for as low as $75 but can bring in $500 at the slaughterhouse. Under the sales provision, these horses can be sold for less than the $125 adoption fee that the BLM has assessed during the last 30 years.
Some people aren’t satisfied that rounding up the wild horses or sending them to the slaughterhouse is the way to fix the problem.
“Someone said you can judge a society by how it treats its animals,” said Roeliff Annon, a Velarde horse trainer who’s worked with mustangs for more than two decades and says he has never taken a horse to slaughter. But keeping a large number of horses sitting around in corrals is “no life” either Annon said, adding, “My question to people is: What’s the solution?” [READ THE WHOLE ARTICLE]