Wild at heart: the emotional legal battle over U.S. Mustangs

Mustangs are symbols of the romanticized West, but are also subject to a variety of ills: lack of land, overbreeding, and poor health care, among other issues.

My family has adopted one Mustang, Pele, who came to us rather wild, but moved onto another family after us as a beloved pet.

The legalities of "the Mustang problem" are numerous:
1. Should they be sterilized? (latest method causes 22 month infertility: fertility control drug PZP.)
2. Sent to meat factories to thin the herd? (Currently there are no open horse-slaughter facilities in the U.S.)
3. Put on private-property to guarantee roaming land?
4. Adopted out before being broken?
5. Broken then adopted out? (At the expense of whom? How many horses can be processed this way? What about the horses that are unsuitable for riding?)
6. Some, and or all, of these options?

The issue has recently been brought to my head (and heart) from the 88 Wild Horses: American History's Modern Horse project.  Here is the link to the project's facebook page, and a link to the blog written by the cowboy breaking the horses.  The goal is to take horses from the range, train them for a variety of different equine sports, make sure they are healthy and fit for work, and then adopt them out!  The photos accompanying the project are mesmerizing 
(all photos taken from 88 Wild Horses Facebook album)

Here is an example of one of the 2010 horses, Tobin: the first time under saddle:


Here is Tobin during training:


And Tobin's Adoption Profile (and Tobin is now successfully adopted!)



It is virtually undisputed that wild  horses cannot just be left alone in the current situation- round-ups are necessary to prevent over-population of the range. 
 Whenever I think through the possibilities of solutions, I always start with the law:

Wild Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Act: 16 U.S.C. §§ 1331-1340 (December 15, 1971, as amended 1978)
The Goal of the Act: Congress found that wild free-roaming horses and burros symbolize the historic and pioneer spirit of the West, contribute to the diversity of life, and enrich the lives of the American people. Congress also found that these animals are fast disappearing from the American scene. The Act declares that it is the policy of Congress to protect wild horses and burros from capture, branding, harassment, or death. To accomplish this policy, wild free-roaming horses and burros on public lands are to be considered an integral part of the natural system. § 1331.

The Act requires: the Secretary to manage wild horses and burros in a manner designed to achieve and maintain ecological balance on the public lands. The Secretary must consider the recommendations of qualified biologists and ecologists, some of whom must be independent of both state and federal agencies. All management activities must include consultation with state wildlife agencies to protect the natural balance of all wildlife species, particularly endangered species. Any adjustments in forage allocations must take into account the needs of other wildlife species.

Issues:
-Ranchers need to lease Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land for grazing of cattle (referred to at times as a "Terf War")
-Other animals live on the range that are deprived of sufficient food and resources if the range is overpopulated by horses
-Some are too old, in too poor of health, or too wild to ever be suitable for adoption
-Reports are conflicted, but some claim horses are abused in the round-up process (BLM disagrees vehemently, and has photographic evidence of round-ups)
-Wild horses are shipped to Mexico or Canada for slaughter, some say slaughter helps give a painless death to old or injured horses, others say that any slaughter is wrong and is an inhumane process, especially when trucking horses so many miles over the border

Clearly a multi-faceted and difficult debate! 
Of course I believe that humane horse treatment is of preeminent concern, and I am also not immune to economic considerations and the plight of the ranchers.  
Even providing private land for mustang roaming doesn't eliminate issues of over-population and equine illness and diseases from a wild lifestyle.
I wish there were more groups like "88 Wild Horses" to help give more mustangs a productive and safe life!

Do you have a personal or particular perspective on the "Wild Horse Issue?"

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