Monday, January 10, 2011

Feral Horses, The Environment, Taxes, and the Poor

Feral Horses, The Environment, Taxes, and the Poor.

Feral horses (aka Mustangs) are unbranded, wild, and non-indigenous horses that live in Western states (for a listing click States). They are the decedents of the horses brought to the New World by the Spanish and other Europeans. Feral horses have recently hit the news (particularly CNN) because of the Bureau of Land Management's (BLM) activity to remove excess horses from the open range.

Feral horses have significant impacts on the fragile dry-lands of the West. Their hoofs compact the soil making it more difficult for plants to grow and their foraging removes plant resources from other native species and for cattle that also graze the land.

Of course, the animal rights protest industry groups allege the cruelty of such round-ups, saying the round ups stress the horses and cause some of them to die. The BLM, according to CNN reports, says that less than 1% of the horses rounded up die in the process. Of course, the facts don't matter. To animal rights protest industry activists (ARPIA), every horse is sacred.

Feral Horses and the Environment

Here are some fact that should trouble readers who care about the environment (for details on the environmental impacts of feral horses click Wildlife Society), the poor, and the out of control Federal budget.  First, ever since the passage of THE WILD FREE-ROAMING HORSES AND BURROS ACT OF 1971(PUBLIC LAW 92-195),  the hunting of horses has been banned. Therefore, what used to be a way for individuals to harvest and utilize horse resources, has now become a financial liability. Feral horse numbers have exploded and adoptions are not keeping pace with reproduction. Of course, the ARPIAs want to require feral horse birth control to management the reproductive rate, a tool that is very expensive. No surprise ARPIAs don't care because they aren't spending their money to handle this problem, they want to take your money as tax payers to pay for it.

Feral Horses and the Poor

How much money does the ARPIAs "compassion" cost you the tax payer? According to the BLM GAO report, "Total program costs were $36.7 million in 2004 and $66.1 million in 2010 (p. 7)." The costs are actually higher in that the horses could have brought revenue to these rural areas if hunting and harvesting was allowed. My point is simply this. Spending 66.1 million dollars on horses when money could be spent on unemployment, employment re-training or even paying down the deficit is immoral.

I strongly recommend that Congress consider overturning this act as a simple and no-brainer way to reduce Federal expenditures. Certainly Congressional leaders should prepare themselves for the emotional tirades of the ARPIAs. But the truth is offensive. You can't legislate to satisfy the extremist anti-environmentalists fringe.

Stephen M. Vantassel is a lecturer of theology at King's Evangelical Divinity School who specializes in environmental ethics. His latest book is Dominion over Wildlife? An Environmental-Theology of Human-Wildlife Relations (Wipf and Stock, 2009). 

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