A better idea than slaughtering horses?

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By Merilee Dannemann

Please, Mr. Redford, give us the alternative to slaughtering horses.
Please, Governors current and past, don’t just tell us it’s bad, tell us what to do instead. Show us a plan. Show us a budget. Show us the water to grow the feed for thousands of stray horses, in this drought, when cattle are dying of starvation on ranches.
There’s livestock and there’s wildlife. Stray, wild and abandoned horses are somewhere in between — not useful to humans, not cared for by humans, competing for scarce food and water. We may love them, but we’re letting nature take its brutal course.
I am not a fan of killing horses. I am as sentimental as anyone. I think of the horses that have personally nuzzled me. I think of Trigger, Roy Rogers’ golden palomino, rearing up elegantly in front of the cameras and of horses who had the misfortune to be ridden into battle, left unscathed when the rider fell. A recent article by my colleague Sherry Robinson reminded us that, historically, the horse got hit more often than the man, and horses were eaten when circumstances dictated.
We 21st century humans can’t get our act together on how to be ethical in treating animals. What crazy inconsistent thoughts are we thinking?
A rancher was almost criminally prosecuted for animal cruelty because his cattle were starving. The state almost adopted these cattle and would have been forced to feed and water them at taxpayer expense, so they could be slaughtered instead of starving.
A few so-called sportsmen had a prairie dog hunting contest. Prairie dogs’ effect on the environment is debated. Some people think they just make holes in the ground that cause cows to break legs; others believe they and their underground tunnels are good or even necessary for the ecosystem and the soil, and their complex community relationships are admirable.
We can’t decide whether to feed the bears having a tough summer that wander into our backyards (except in Raton, where reportedly they are welcome in the trash dumpsters and don’t hurt anybody). Feeding them up in the mountains would protect them by keeping them away from civilization, so their population would be healthier next year and we’d have licenses to shoot a few more of them.
We adore our dogs and treat them like members of the family, except for those abandoned by the roadside, tossed into a dumpster, or living wild on the Navajo reservation (thousands of them, reportedly).
New Mexico is spending $1 million in federal money to kill feral pigs (including shooting from airplanes — nothing sportsman-like about that) even though they are highly intelligent social animals. State Land Commissioner Ray Powell was quoted as saying, “They’re much brighter than I am.” We hear nothing from the animal rights community, perhaps because the pigs are ugly and multi-billion-dollar destructive, tearing up crops and wildlife habitat, eating small wildlife and spreading disease to both cattle and wildlife. According to New Mexico Wildlife (published by the Game and Fish Department), some of these pigs were brought in privately from Texas because they were somebody’s idea of good animals to hunt. Then they multiplied, like four-legged kudzu, or the Asian carp, destroying fisheries as they eat their way up the Mississippi.
And don’t get me started on wolves.
Perhaps the feral dogs will kill and eat the abandoned horses, who will be too weak from hunger and thirst to run away, and maybe the feral pigs will give the dogs a fight and thus reduce the wild dog population. That’s nature for you.
Not a pretty picture. Instead of just opposing what’s proposed, please come up with something better, Mr. Redford.

Contact Merilee Dannemann through triplespacedagain.com.