(August 25, 2009) I’ve spent the last few days going over some very old articles that I wrote long ago. It’s simply sad to realize that nothing has changed, that all the words, the arguments, the bills submitted in Congress and the massive letter writing campaigns have amounted to nothing more than a distant whisper of wind in the trees.
Jerry Finch, Founder and President of Habitat for Horses (Photo by R.T. Fitch)
This article was written about five years ago, at a time when the State of Nevada offered to sell me a bunch of wild horses for $1 each – all I wanted, with no restrictions. Tonight the BLM is warming up to take in more horses, leading to the destruction of Cloud’s herd in the Pryor Mountains. If the BLM had its way, all 33,000 horses now in holding pens would end up at the slaughterhouses in Mexico or Canada.
Despite all the changes, things remain the same. Today I can still buy horses for a dollar each, or I can get the BLM to not only give me all the mustangs I want, but give me a few hundred dollars for each horse I take. What is the value of their life?
I’m not going to get into wild horses tonight. I’m not going to rant and rave about the idiocy of the Federal Government and the BLM or about what a wild horse really is and who really has control of them and why they are a dime a dozen. It doesn’t matter that the BLM is going to round up 6,000 more of them in Nevada this year just to satisfy the cattle ranchers. It doesn’t matter that any horse over 6 will then be assigned to a pen and will stand there for the rest of its life while the BLM tries to adopt all the horses under 6, but never succeeds. It doesn’t matter because the government, our government, doesn’t care.
There are a few good people in the BLM, but there are far more rough and tumble cowboys who are having the time of their life and being very well paid to wrangle what they consider “worthless” horses. The few good people have found ways to geld the studs and turn them back out to the wild where they belong. Even better, a few wonderful veterinarians have found ways to administer birth control to the mares and allow the herds to diminish naturally. It doesn’t matter because the “Wild Horse” program feeds too many people who want to keep their jobs and SUV’s. If they did utilize the proven methods of birth control, they might very well wake up and see their whole bureaucracy fade away.
So the politicians and administrators meet with the ranchers and agree that the herds must be reduced, and the BLM proves their usefulness by rounding them up in the designated control areas and destroying their lives. But they leave a set number running free, knowing that those free horses will reproduce at a 30% rate each year and within a few years, the good old boys will be back again, rounding up more wild horses.
Jerry with one of his first rescues, Pete
The key words are “designated control areas,” for if the wild horses wander, or are pushed, out of those areas, they become the problem not of the BLM, but of the State of Nevada. Those aren’t wild horses anymore. They are “estray” horses and have no protection whatsoever from anyone who wants to do whatever they want with them. They are off the Federal land, and that looks good on paper. The ranchers who lease the Federal lands are happy, the BLM is happy because they don’t have to fool with them and the State is happy, because they get to make a few bucks. But it really doesn’t matter because the Wild Horse and Burro Act only covers those animals within the designated control areas. The rest are free game.
A buck a horse. Think about that. Absolutely beautiful, perfect horses, all you want, all you could ever handle, for a dollar each. You see visions of wild horses wandering your pastures, playing, procreating, loving, and forever being what God made them. You see visions of the correctness of it all, the justification of the horse’s existence on this earth, never to be touched by human hands, being what horses were always meant to be. You and fifty dollars – creating a paradise where wild horses can roam free forever.
We won’t talk about the visions of lesser men, who see a fifty-dollar investment, plus a couple thousand in transportation, turn into twelve thousand dollars just across the border. We won’t talk about it because it happens far more than we can handle. Steaks on hooves, they call it. No need to feed or water them. So a few die. Big deal. It’s a fast buck, and lesser men can turn the truck around and do it again tomorrow. Am I being judgmental? Hell, yes I am, for those aren’t men, not by any standard I’ve set in my life.
A buck a horse. For all the thousands we spend saving horses, for all the pain, the sweat, the tears, for all the work we do, the value of our horses at the ranch comes to $80. Pete, Darby, Ziggy, Little Richard, S.D., you want them? A dollar each, please.
I stood over the bone-thin skeleton of a dying mare and shed tears for all man has done to her. A wasted life, God’s perfect creature, trapped in a 10X10 pen and left to die in the mud and filth of its own waste. I would have given anything to save that mare. I’d taken out loans, worked endless hours, just to see her walk again, just to show her that all men are not evil. I never had the chance. She died in my arms moments later, too far gone to recognize anything but the pain of her failing heart. I sat in my truck for an hour, too angry to drive, too red-eyed to face another person. It really didn’t matter, did it?
Not to them. Not to those who see horses as so much trash. Sell them, can them, package them, dump them. If they can’t produce anymore, let them starve.
It doesn’t matter, not to them.
It matters to us. It matters because we are who we are and we could no more hurt an animal than we could kill a child.
I won’t rant and rave about it because it just flat out hurts too much to face the reality, to see the injustice, and to know that humans are capable of doing what they do and of thinking that it doesn’t matter.
To look at a horse – to see the power, the majesty, the intelligence, the passion for life – and to place all that at a value of $1.
Where did we go wrong?
And what do we have to do to make it right again?
(Jerry Finch, Founder/President of Habitat for Horses, a great friend to horses and a motivator of people.)