Apparently, the definition of “wild” is to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) as the definition of “is” was to former president Bill Clinton. When Clinton was asked about whether he had engaged in sexual activity with White House intern Monica Lewinsky, he stated, “There is no improper relationship.” Later when caught in his web of lies, Clinton verbally scrambled claiming, “It depends on what your definition of “is” is.” The BLM just recently rounded up and sent to slaughter a herd of wild horses that they claim are not wild because they were “descended from strays” and thus are not officially “wild.” As it turned out, Clinton did have a sexual relationship with Lewinsky and in the BLM’s case, the definition of “not wild” is sketchy at best resulting in the horses being slaughtered for meat.
The BLM rounded up a herd of 41 horses in Wyoming that had been running free for several decades and the horses were sold to the highest bidder, a Canadian slaughterhouse called Bouvry Exports for less than $2,000. The BLM claims that the horses were not in fact “wild” and thus not deserving of the protection of the Wild-Free Roaming Horses and Burro Act – especially because this herd of horses did not have a permit to graze on federal land. Their lack of a permit to graze was no doubt unknown by the wild horses who were simply grazing on the fodder of the landscape they had freely roamed for years. The agency claims the horses were not wild but were instead “abandoned” because they were descendants of “stray rodeo horses” from the 1970s owned by a deceased contractor of rodeo livestock.
Apparently having descended from “handled” horses, the herd in Wyoming that had been running free and procreating for decades was not quite wild enough and were just meat to the Bureau of Land Management. It would have been interesting to see an agent from the BLM try to saddle each rodeo descendent up for a little giddy-up just to see how domesticated these horses were before selling them to slaughter. That would have been a rodeo worth seeing. In this case, the definition of wild was conveniently in the eye of the beholder – that of a government agency ridding itself of pestilence not in the actual nature of the animals they rounded up.
The sale and slaughter has caused public outcry by those who advocate for wild horses as majestic living symbols of the great American West as well as animals with limitless heart and spirit. These advocates understand that the BLM will round up wild horses but want the opportunity to save them in a public auction. The BLM claims that in this case they did advertise the auction via notices in the newspaper and flyers in the local post offices. However, all of the horses were sold off to the slaughterhouse bidder in just a few hours. Paula Todd King of a Colorado based wild horse advocacy group, The Cloud Foundation, spoke out against the sale claiming that with very little effort the horses could have been saved from being “sent to slaughter indiscriminately.”
There are those who regard wild horses as “invasive pests,” namely cattle ranchers who have had to deal with herds of horses grazing down their lands. Cattle ranchers near the recent Wyoming roundup had been complaining about such damage to the rangeland for their cattle and it is likely that their complaints served to pressure the Bureau of Land Management to conduct the roundup. However, not affording the 41 horses the protection of the Wild-Free Roaming Horses and Burro Act because they did not meet the BLM’s definition of “wild” stinks of interpretation of convenience, just as Clinton’s verbal wrangling over the word “is” did in the Lewinsky sex scandal. It appears that the BLM, when under pressure, has no qualms about treating wild horses as just meat, instead of providing them with the protections they deserve.
Opinion By Alana Marie Burke
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