Where Are Our Wild Horses?

Gillian Lyons

 When contemplating American Icons, mustangs inevitably come to mind.  In fact, in the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act, Congress stated that wild free-roaming horses are living symbols of the historic and pioneer spirit of the West, which contribute to the diversity of life forms within the Nation and enrich the lives of the American people. Unfortunately, the Bureau of Land Management is currently removing, via controlled round-ups, this symbol of the American spirit from their habitats throughout the western United States. Two such round-ups currently in the news are occurring in Colorado and Wyoming (a round-up that aims to remove 2,000 horses from rangelands).  After these round-ups, BLM plans to either auction captured horses or to house them in government owned corrals.

 According to the Bureau of Land Management’s Director, Bob Abbey, the reason for these round-ups is that the Western rangeland is currently home to 38,400 free-roaming population horses and burros, which exceeds by nearly 12,000 the number of horses and burros that the BLM has determined can exist in balance with other public rangeland resources and uses.  Animal welfare organizations, however, disagree with these calculations and policies, and claimed in a unified letter signed by 120 organizations that: Continue reading

Advocacy, Rights, & More Dilution of Language

I want to say a brief word about animal rights.  Or rather I want to say a brief word what they are not about.  The media often brands advocacy organizations opposing the mistreatment of nonhumans as “animal rights groups” regardless of the groups’ actual purpose or philosophy.  For example, here discussing opposition to the proposed “euthanization” of thousands of wild mustangs, the Washington Post lumps the American Wild Horses Preservation Campaign (among others) under the rubric of animals rights groups.  The AWHPC is an umbrella organization for 45 groups, most of which are far more concerned with horses not dying than with the nature and scope of horses’ moral or legal claims.

Furthermore, the WaPo also tells us that Madeleine Pickens, wife of billionaire oilman, T. Boone Pickens, intervened and pledged to save the horses.  I feel confident opining that Ms. Pickens does not consider herself an animal rights activist.  My guess: she just likes horses.  Not being animal rights-oriented doesn’t make Ms. Pickens a bad person or the AWHPC a bad organization anymore than not being a pear makes an apple a bad fruit.  They are just different.

I intend to write more about how animal advocates of all stripes as well as the causes they champion get routinely marginalized through this type of careless rhetoric.  If animal rights are to mean something, they cannot mean everything.  Codifying what animal rights do mean, however, is a post for another day.

David Cassuto

Update, March 2009: It is not looking good for the Pickens-funded sanctuary.