Do We Need a ‘Mustang-Safe’ Label for Beef?

SOURCE:  Pacific Standard Magazine

The response to an especially ugly round-up of wild horses in Oregon suggests we might.


A group of wild horses are rounded up in Eureka, Nevada. (Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Any company that sells tuna—one of the most popular foods eaten globally—has the option of including a “dolphin safe” label on its product. Monitored by Earth Island International, the label ensures that your tuna was harvested without the use of drift gill nets, which often accidentally trap dolphin. The general idea behind this specialized labeling initiative is simple enough: Consumers should know if one animal species was killed in order for us to harvest another one.

Of course, the concept is necessarily discriminatory. An incalculable number of non-food animals die to bring food animals to our plates. Billions of rodents perish to grow corn and soy for animal feed; billions more are killed when rainforests are cleared for grazing cattle; and—if we want to throw insects into the mix—a nearly infinite number of them are exterminated as a sort of by-catch to accommodate humanity’s steady diet of meat, eggs, and dairy.

But—justifiably or not—dolphins are in a special category. Not only are dolphins unusually intelligent creatures, but they are non-threatening to humans, threatening to sharks, beloved performers at SeaWorld, popular stuffed animals, and frequently anthropomorphized for the purposes of television entertainment. For these reasons, humans (in Western cultures at least) have invested dolphins with a special status. Whatever the precise nature of that status, it’s enough to make dolphin protection a priority on a can of tuna fish.

Many Americans share the view that there’s something sort of majestically sacred about mustangs, at least sacred enough to prevent welfare-ranchers from selling us subsidized beef at the supermarket.

To accept this preferential logic compels us to lend other iconic animals special status as well. The most notably comparable case might be the wild horse—or mustang. Western ranchers holding permits from the Bureau of Land Management to graze cattle on public land compete with mustangs for access to forage within designated wild horse habitats. While 2014 year-end grazing receipts show the equivalent of at least 37 cattle for every wild horse on grazing lands managed by the BLM, mustangs aren’t in any way privileged beyond the soft protections offered by the 1971 Wild Horse and Burros Act. As a result, public-land ranchers routinely call on the BLM to round-up wild horses and remove them from federal land, preserving the forage for cattle. The BLM pens the captured mustangs in a holding facility, from which few are adopted and most die in captivity. Thousands, as revealed by a recent investigative report from the Department of the Interior, have been sold to “kill buyers” and shipped to Mexico for slaughter.

BLM round-up targeting 1,400 mustangs (half the population of the state) was recently completed in Oregon. It played out in familiar fashion. A Burns, Oregon, rancher organization called the Beatys Butte Grazing Association pressured the BLM to remove horses from a federally designated wild horse habitat. The BLM complied. Several members of Beatys Butte market their beef through a cooperative called Country Natural Beef, which is a major supplier to Whole Foods.




  1. Does anyone remember the old con-man game often referred to as the “shell-game”? I know for a fact (FOIA and other information) that at some BLM wild horse and burro captures, not all of the wild equine captured even make it to the BLM holding facility. The old shell-game is also known as “Now You See Them … Now You Don’t”


  2. From Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER)

    Horses to Slaughter – Anatomy of a Coverup within the BLM (April 1997)

    The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) within the Department of Interior is the agency mandated by law “to protect and manage wild free-roaming horses…as components of the public lands.” Yet, the BLM has tolerated and in some instances facilitated the routine and illegal trafficking of wild horses to slaughter. The agency has obstructed efforts by its own law enforcement officers to expose commercial theft of wild horses, fraudulent adoption schemes and fictitious “sanctuary” herds not only to avoid embarrassment but also to maintain the flow of horses off the range.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Louie C
    This information goes along nicely with the Peer White Paper which proves to me that most of the horses boarded out on ranches in the US don’t exist anymore as I said before. BLM has been selling these wild horses to slaughter for years long before the Burns amendment was added along with not freeze branding them to conceal where they came from. The only freeze branding that has ever been done is to the horses that are kept on display for the benefit of fooling the public. The BLM employee’s I believe have their palms greased by the ranchers to remove the horses from public lands then within a day or two truck loads of cattle or sheep move in.
    Like I said before the Peer paper is the smoking gun that proves what BLM has been doing this far longer than 1997 when the Peer paper came out.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Barbara, have you ever read this article?
    Here are just a few excerpts

    MARCH 3, 2009
    Breaking Through Del Rio

    The four-year grand jury investigation of the Wild Horse & Burro Program and the over 3,000 pieces of evidence it accumulated that was slammed shut in 1996 (without any of this evidence ever being heard) is often referred to in wild horse circles as “Del Rio”.

    Does anyone remember what the final straw was that broke the back of the Del Rio grand jury’s investigation? It was a subpoena issued to BLM demanding an “inventory” of a 1,200 capacity long-term holding facility in Osasge County, OK, – a legal subpoena BLM refused to grant.

    Let me repeat this so it is crystal clear…

    Because a subpoena demanded an accounting of the number of wild horses in a BLM holding facility, the BLM successfully shut down a grand jury investigation of the United States of America rather than comply and allow independent law enforcement to verify the number of wild horses BLM said they were holding in the facility.

    The key word was inventory – meaning numbers – and anyone who takes a little time to research this issue quickly realizes this is a “numbers game”. As the lives of America’s wild horses and burros continue to tip precariously closer to execution and/or slaughter, the future they are facing is a result of only one thing – numbers.


  5. Sad to say it’s not just livestock causing our wild horses to be on the verge of extinction. It’s mining , drilling , fracking, destruction of the range to reseed it with non-native grasses, solar panels on BLM land instead of rooftops, etc. and Sec. of Interior Jewell oversees all of this. She is as bad as Salazar .

    Liked by 1 person

  6. What these people are doing to the wild horses are unfair. They are wild animals. They didn’t do anything to you, so why do you have to kill them. I have been around horses all my life. Horses are the most calm, beautiful animals. I love to see them run free. They have the whole world at their hooves. Let them be free. God put them on this earth to run wild not to be killed by those people. Instead of hunting them you should help them. LET THEM RUN FREE!


  7. It should be a HORSE MEAT FREE label. Its much larger thsn the mustangs and donkeys. No horse meat should be in this country’s diet!!!!!!!


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