Sunday, December 28, 2014

If You Want to Save the Mustangs, Eat Them

The State of Nevada is home to one of the last herds of wild mustangs left in America.  Prized as a symbol of the American West, the mustang has enjoyed protected status for decades now, and this status has caused problems.  The horses are introduced, not native, and so in large part they lack predators to keep their population in check.  They compete with ranchers for grazing and water, and their protected status means that their population would grow unchecked without some control.  But, they are protected, so how do you deal with this situation?

Enter the utter abomination that is the annual BLM round up.  

Why is the theme song to M.A.S.H. running through my head right now?  

Every year, the BLM uses helicopters to drive herds of mustangs into enclosures, where they are trapped, loaded onto trailers, and shipped to holding facilities throughout the United States.  SInce the horses are protected, they cannot be sold to slaughter, (or sold at all) and can only be "adopted" out of qualified "adopters".  As befits anything that our Federal Government does, becoming an adopter is such an onerous process that few choose to do it.  Given that most of the horses, being wild animals, will be entirely useless for the remainder of their lives, and their only value lies in their meat or rendering them into glue, adopters are very hard to find.  As a result, the BLM finds itself the proud, however reluctant, owner of 39,000 head of horses.  That's nearly twice the number of horses that are actually left in the wild.  It costs $90 MILLION dollars a year to feed and maintain these horses, which have no use at all.  

I mean, seriously, what good is a horse that can't do this?

They aren't trained to ride or work.  They just exist and eat, in converted cattle feed lots, until they can be "adopted" or they die of natural causes.  The latter is much more common.  

Adoption, as it were, is a really bad option to solve this issue.  Despite the "best" efforts of the BLM, they were only able to "adopt" away 1,500 horses last year.  As it turns out, many of those horses were shipped to Mexico, to meet a fate unknown.    

But probably delicious...

They were most likely slaughtered for meat, which has many advocacy groups up in arms.  

Which, as it were, I do not understand.  

And I've got good reason for not understanding it.  First, a little background on me:

I grew up around horses.  I grew up bucking hay and shoveling shit and breaking the ice off of watering troughs.  I tossed 80 pound bales of hay onto the backs of trucks in the hot August heat for more weekends in my youth than I care to think about.  Instead of hanging out with my buddies down at the river, drinking cold beverages and ogling girls in bikinis, I breathed hay chaff, wearing long sleeves to protect my arms in the 100 degree heat.  I did these things for our cattle as well as our horses, which is probably the only reason that I didn't revolt and refuse to do it, because, and I can't stress this enough - I fucking HATE horses.  

Fuck you, super cute horse
Because of my experience with livestock, and also due to my experience in the outdoors, I found myself employed for a couple of seasons, as a teenager, by an outfitter that took "dude strings" of horses and hunters up into the north Cascades, dropped them off for a preset period of time, then ventured back up to get them.  I helped saddle horses and guide the dude strings up to pre-determined camp locations, and during that time, and the time that we owned horses during my youth, I figured out a couple of truths about these terrible, terrible animals.  First and foremost being:  

I think any person who has any understanding of horses either hates them, or tolerates them as a useful and imperfect necessity, or is absolutely delusional.  

Or, alternatively, is just kind of weird...

Our society has done a good job of romanticizing horse, both for little boys and little girls.  They are cast as noble, majestic creatures with a quiet intelligence far greater than their ecological niche as a non-ruminant grazer should rightfully grant them.  The Lone Ranger has Silver, a horse that nearly understood English, and that saved his life from countless tight spots, using it's superior intelligence and loyalty.  Little girls grow up with pictures of beautiful horses with long, flowing manes galloping through idealistic meadows with them on it's back.  

Something like this, maybe, only more flowey, and with a girl dressed like a ridiculous Princess on it's back

Allow me to illuminate you on the reality of horses.  They are non-ruminant grazing animals, and have exactly the same amount of intelligence that you'd expect a grazing animal to have.  

Look, folks, that niche in life doesn't require a critter to be Einstein: eat grass, drink water, run from predators. That is pretty much the entire mental kit that these creatures need to survive, and that, my friends, is all that evolution has blessed them with.  They are no more intelligent than cows.  Hell, depending on the cow, I can come up with a few cows that eclipsed any horse I've ever been around, intelligence-wise.  

Along with that lack of intelligence is a distinct and very obvious lack of altruism.  It isn't just that they are dumb.  It's that their personality falls somewhere in between "generally could give less of a shit about you except for when it's feeding time" and "is motivated by the spirit of Satan, himself, to see you dead in some horrible, painful way".  

"Fuck you, puny human!" *evil laughter*

At no time is this more evident than when the horse panics for no apparent reason, loses all sense of self-preservation (much less owner preservation) and does something stupid, like roll over backwards on the person riding them, or, in the case of my good friend Brian, just jump right off a fucking cliff with you on it's back.  

Yup, because he got startled by a couple of leaves blowing across the trail (remember the whole "not very smart" thing I wrote above?) the horse that he was on jumped sideways off of a short cliff, onto an insanely steep shale slide, where both horse and rider managed to tumble ass-over-teakettle for the better part of 500 feet, until they both came to rest in a twisted, wrecked lump of horse flesh and humanity that I was convinced was my dear friend's final resting place, against an ancient cedar log from a massive tree that had fallen across the slope the year before.  I honestly thought my friend was dead.  I KNEW the horse had to be.  

Somehow, by the grace of divine intervention, both walked away (mostly) unscathed, although we were both bound and determined to shoot that fucking horse in it's stupid fucking face for a period of a couple of hours after.  Brian was bruised and beaten up pretty badly, but he lived.  

And gang, this is just one of a dozen or more stories that I could regale you with about good men nearly dying, being maimed, and in one case, a good friend of my sister's nearly losing her leg because horses are stupid.  In the case of my sister's friend, her horse decided to roll over on top of her because it panicked after a rabbit ran through the brush next to her.  


All of that is provided as background so that you understand when I say the next thing I'm going to say, which is:

Horses are no different than cattle, or elk, or deer, and we should not have any more compunction when it comes to slaughtering them for their meat, or shooting them for sport, than we do with any other animal.  The BLM should not be spending 90 MILLION DOLLARS a year to feed these useless mustangs, when they could be bringing in a little revenue by selling them for slaughter.  
"Try our new Carne Horseada Crunchwrap Supreme!"

Or, even better, the State of Nevada could issue hunting permits for them and make a bunch of money, and bring in a bunch of tourism dollars, instead of pissing away millions of dollars that could go towards fixing our infrastructure, or building schools, or a trillion other things that it could be better spent on (hell, buy a couple Hellfire missiles to pipe up Al Qaeda's ass, it'd be better than spending it on horses that are going to take up expensive crop land growing hay so that they can convert it into useless horse shit).  

As for the sustainability of the wild horse population in Nevada, well, let me just leave this right here:

 SOME people would just as soon ignore the culinary potential of the Carolina flying squirrel or the Waldoboro green neck rutabaga. To them, the creamy Hutterite soup bean is too obscure and the Tennessee fainting goat, which keels over when startled, sounds more like a sideshow act than the centerpiece of a barbecue. But not Gary Paul Nabhan. He has spent most of the past four years compiling a list of endangered plants and animals that were once fairly commonplace in American kitchens but are now threatened, endangered or essentially extinct in the marketplace. He has set out to save them, which often involves urging people to eat them.
It's long been accepted that the best way to save an endangered species is to ensure that it has some value to the people trying to save it.   In a lot of cases, this involves, paradoxically, shooting them for sport, or eating them as food.

Sorry, little fella.  It's for your own good.

Africa is a very good example.  Because of diseases carried by wild animals in Africa, there was a concerted effort by many on that continent to eliminate them all.  The Cape Buffalo, the Elephant, the antelope, and the lions that eat them, would all be extinct by now, had there not been a clarifying moment in Africa where they realized that they could make more money selling hunts to rich people than they could ranching and exterminating all the animals.  Hunters saved Africa, and I am sure that hunters could likewise save the wild mustangs of the American West, if we'd just stop being so fucking stupid and let them.