Save the Wild Horses!



In 1988, Scottie and I watched a small herd of mustangs gallop across Coyote Lake, a playa east of the Alvord Desert, trailing a curtain of fine dust in the still air. They came from the south, rumbled past a short distance away, and were gone. We stood mesmerized the whole time. Minutes, hours, who could say?

If that experience was something to write home about, our first close encounter was the stuff of fiction. Or, more to the point, poetry, since I incorporated the 1992 episode in a poem written seven years later. [See the third entry, below.]

I was blissfully ignorant of the government's crusade to rid the West of wild horses until June, 2003, when I attended a poetry gathering in South Dakota and met Craig Downer, a wildlife ecologist from Nevada.

Our conversation over dinner that first night caused all those vaguely disquieting articles and newscasts to come flooding back. The Bureau of Land Management's periodic round-ups of Kiger mustangs. The low-flying helicopters sweeping the horses ahead. The rhetoric about the "public need" to "thin" the herds, the "good homes" the "excess" mustangs would find at auction.

Many of those horses wound up sneaking into dog food cans, or onto European dinner plates, good homes if you're in the meat packing industry. Then, the slaughter of wild horses was illegal. Now it's the law of the land.

In December, 2004, with White House approval, the cattle industry conspired with congressional Republicans to repeal the Wild Free-roaming Horse and Burro Act of 1971, which declared mustangs, "living symbols of the historic and pioneer spirit of the West, that ... contribute to the diversity of life forms within the Nation and enrich the lives of the American people."

With no hearing and no floor debate, the life work of Wild Horse Annie, who drew school children all across America to her cause, was flushed down the toilet.

Where is the public outcry? Are we, as a nation, so inured to deceit and subterfuge that we shrug at each new revelation of wrong-doing by our overlords in Washington?

Don't ask what Jesus would do. Get off your fat ass and protest! Start by directing your search engine to Wild Horse Preservation. You'll be amazed.

o o o o o

Entries, in order of appearance:

o Willie Nelson: Stop the slaughter of horses [November 2, 2006]
o Guest editorial published online by BlueOregon [June 3, 2005]
o Excerpt from letter to Nevada wildlife ecologist Craig Downer [September 13, 2003]
o Excerpt from "Reading at Sam Simpson's Grave on the Centennial of his Death, June 14, 1999"

o o o o o

o Willie Nelson: Stop the slaughter of horses [November 2, 2006]

We have a lot to learn from horses

By Willie Nelson
Special to CNN

AUSTIN, Texas (CNN) --- Will Rogers said, "You know horses are smarter than people. You never heard of a horse going broke betting on people."

However, the horses are counting on the people more than ever now. Nearly 100,000 horses are killed annually in foreign-owned slaughterhouses in America for human consumption in other countries.

With the upcoming Senate vote on the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act, Americans have a small window of opportunity to save a living legend.

Horses are all the things a truly evolved human should be. There are countless examples of their innate ability and desire to heal people.

Consider the therapeutic riding programs across the country, where horses can have more progress with children with various physical and mental disabilities than their own doctors. The most superhuman thing about horses is the contrast between their unearthly strength and inherent gentleness. Humans abuse their power while horses use theirs only for good. I'd rather be a horse.

With no disrespect to the eagle, I've always thought that the horse should be our national emblem. When horse accepted man onto his back and chose to carry his burdens, it changed the world. Horses have aided mankind through his most arduous and treacherous endeavors, from the sword to the plowshare. Humanity owes an incalculable debt to the horse. In Native American teachings, Horse enables shamans to fly through the air and reach heaven. To steal someone's horse is to steal their power.

Contrary to what some people are saying, slaughter is not a humane form of euthanasia, and these are not unwanted horses. The treatment of slaughter-bound horses is most often inhumane, and more than 90 percent of those slaughtered are young and in good health. Many are sold to slaughterhouses at closed auctions, while others are stolen pets.

Humans are not smart to eat horses. Horses are treated daily with products such as fly spray, wormers, hoof dressings, etc. These products have labels warning against use on animals used for food. Anyone with horse sense would not be exporting this toxic product.

The passage of the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act (H.R. 503/S. 1915) would put in place a permanent and immediate ban on both the slaughter of horses in the U.S. and the exportation of live horses for slaughter abroad.

Thanks to the Society for Animal Protective Legislation, which started the national campaign to end horse slaughter, and to those who got involved and called their legislators, the House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly to pass H.R. 503. But the fight is not over. The Senate will vote on S. 1915, hopefully in November. Call or write your senators today. Each week our elected officials fail to act on this bill, thousands of horses are subjected to unimaginable cruelty.

For information on horse slaughter, to read my public letter to Congress and to find your senators, go to the Society for Animal Protective Legislation.

There has never been a better time to adopt. I just adopted 11 horses from Habitat for Horses. For information on how you can adopt a horse or give to this great cause, visit Habitat for Horses.

Join me and more than 500 leading horse industry groups, humane organizations, equine rescues and veterinarians in our effort to end horse slaughter.

o o o o o

o Guest editorial published online by BlueOregon [June 3, 2005]

Save the Kiger Mustangs!

By David Hedges

If the federal government's campaign of genocide against the West's dwindling herds of wild horses is allowed to broaden, as the White House thinks it should, Oregon's famed Kiger mustangs may well go the way of the dodo.

The first official acknowledgement of what wild horse aficionados have known for years appeared April 24 in a tiny Associated Press story buried on a back page of The Oregonian. They're being sold to meat processors, as they were a century ago. This follows repeal in December of a 34-year-old federal law banning the slaughter of wild horses.

Populations already have been "thinned" to the point that protection may be a moot point. It takes a certain number to insure survival, and the Bureau of Land Management, spurred by the cattle industry and other profiteers who lay claim to the federal land trust, has been rounding up mustangs for decades.

Why protect them? First, because they're wild. Second, because they're indigenous to North America. And though textbooks will tell you they died out at the end of the last Ice Age, there's a possibility they survived in small pockets and were here to greet, and mate with, escapees from Spanish incursions.

Proof of this would deal a body blow to the cattle industry. As an indigenous species with continuous occupancy, mustangs would fall instantly under the Endangered Species Act. Reserves would be set aside, as they are for pronghorn, another Ice Age survivor.

If the feds have their way, though, most people won't know what a treasure they had in their hands until it's too late. Like the dodo, the mustang will be extinct.

o o o o o

o Excerpt from my letter to Nevada wildlife ecologist Craig Downer [September 15, 2003]

I was startled to read in your treatise on wild horses that "the brief absence of horses several thousand years before their reintroduction by Spanish is subject to question by recent finds." It makes sense, since horses were prevalent at the close of the Pleistocene. Why should they not have survived the climate change, along with pronghorn and bison?

I've read that bison in the northern Great Basin died off during the particularly severe winter of 1799. Horses might well have survived because they knew to break ice to get at the water beneath. I'd like to know what those recent finds are.

I am fascinated by the history of horses in Oregon. I have an eohippus tooth I found in the John Day Fossil Beds on an Oregon Museum of Science & Industry expedition in 1951, when I was 14.

I also unearthed, in a small shelter cave, a ceremonial headdress fashioned from the top of a bison skull, complete with horns and hair. The adults (several of whom were among the founders of the Oregon Archeological Society that very year) put the site off limits to the 14 boys on the trip, presumably so they could keep the artifacts for themselves. I kept quiet about the projectile point I found (brown jasper with thin black inclusions resembling eyes and a mouth), so I didn't come up empty-handed!

The enclosed article appeared today in the Sunday Oregonian. It makes my blood boil to see the casual way reporters toss around misinformation spoon fed to them by bureaucrats whose sole concern is placating cattle ranchers. The statistics should cause every thinking person to shout, "Hey, wait a minute!" If the land once supported a wild horse population of 300,000 to 400,000, and is down to 2,800, why the need to round them up? What's the point beyond which wild horses will no longer be able to maintain a viable population?

Steens Mountain once was covered with tall grass, but sheep put a quick end to that. Efforts are underway to reintroduce a type of grass similar in some respects to the original, extinct variety, but the idiots running the country to ruin, through their stooges at the Interior Department, plan to back off on grazing restrictions. Two summers ago I saw areas which were on their way to restoration after years of overgrazing or riparian degradation; last summer these areas were again despoiled by cattle.

I'm curious about another point. Did the Spanish horses from which Kigers supposedly descended have zebra striping on their legs, and other characteristics in common? Have DNA tests been conducted? [Update: they have] What if Kigers are the remnants of Pleistocene stock? What if the Spaniards captured New World horses which later escaped back into the wilds? I may be suffering from a lack of knowledge here, but I have an active imagination!

o o o o o

o Excerpt from "Reading at Sam Simpson's Grave on the Centennial of His Death, June 14, 1999." Sam is regarded as Oregon's finest poet of the late 19th century. His poem "At Linnton's Shambles" decries the slaughter of mustangs to feed foreign armies.

Walt read At Linnton's Shambles and I fell
deep into debt. I felt the poet's heart
pour forth and beat with mine, the spell
a meld of passion, sullen craft, and art.

From childhood on, I've chased a vagrant star
astride a cayuse, wild upon the land.
No longer saddled by Sam's abattoir
in Linnton, or the mustangs shot and canned

to feed advancing armies, I flew off
to Kiger Gorge, Coyote Lake, the kame
below Steens Mountain where the water trough
was lined with mares and foals, and Scottie's name,

Sir Lancelot, spoke volumes of the white
rapscallion who mimed a circus horse
along the esker's serpentine, his light
played from a stream in space, the intercourse

of grace and force, the blaze of tail and mane.
We raced in tandem down the shadow side
and stumbled out upon the wind-blown plain
below the pond. With no place close to hide,

we stirred the mares, who, in their turn, dispersed
the herd. We watched the colts and fillies fall
in line, the foals tuck into pockets, nursed
to gird them for the coming flight, the thrall

of all that's mystic, greater than its parts.
Then came the dust, the light behind, the breath
like fire against the ice-blue sky, the starts
and stops, the postures of a fight to death.

We dropped, like dragons waiting to be slain,
to humble knees. The herd stampeded up
the slope. Sir Lancelot, his silver mane
and tail dissolved like crystals in a cup

of light, rose as a halo on the hill
until the poundings in our hearts wound down,
the sun shone through, the air around grew still.
I shed my shield, she jettisoned her gown,

and we made love with passion, pulse, and power,
locked with our tangled limbs in tight embrace,
observed by tumbleweed and sagebrush flower,
each with pure wonder etched across its face.

[Reprinted from Steens Mountain Sunrise: Poems of the Northern Great Basin]

Comments (2):

I live on the beachside, in Florida, but I’ve read the story that Marguerite Henry wrote about Velma Johnston (Wild Horse Annie) and her fight to save the mustangs when I was a little girl. I agree with her completely. When Annie went to Congress to talk about saving the horses, she basically said in the book: ‘The mustang is a living symbol of our country’s history.’ She also said that when her father was a baby, her grandmother ran out of milk and she had to use the milk of a mustang to keep him alive. She passed a bill making it illegal for people to kill or hunt mustangs. I think we should put that law or another law back into effect, a law which prohibits people from needlessly slaughtering the poor horses. We need to do something before the mustangs become extinct.
Posted by: Kelly Crutcher | Email | May 20, 2006