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Feral horse issue needs realistic, timely solution

As an individual, I am not at all interested in eating horse meat. I also don’t want to ever try escargot again, along with some other things. However, I would never want to deprive those who do eat horse meat (and perhaps depend upon it for survival) from having it.

After growing up on a ranch, the emotional connection with horses is certainly familiar to me, on a first-hand basis. However, ranch families tend to be much more familiar with the realities of responsible animal ownership than many who have not had those experiences. Just about the worst thing a rancher could say about another was that they didn’t take good care of the land or of their animals.

Feral horses need to be distinguished from “wild” horses (herds of mustangs). Wild horses have been bred for generations to survive in the wild. Feral horses have wandered off or been deliberately abandoned and have no survival skills. They have depended upon humans for food, water and shelter.

The New Mexico Livestock Board estimates 10,000-plus feral horses in New Mexico, including on pueblo lands. The Navajo Nation estimates 70,000-plus feral horses on their lands, and the Mescalero Apache estimate 4,000 on their lands. These numbers are considered to be low estimates. But that’s close to 90,000 feral horses in New Mexico alone!


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The cost of euthanizing a horse is $250-plus. Disposal of a horse carcass is $200-plus, if a site can even be found to take the carcass.

The U.S. Dept. of Agriculture reports exported horses for slaughter in the following numbers: 110,202 to Mexico; 59,812 to Canada; and 6,209 to Japan – totaling 176,233 horses.

Conditions for slaughter cannot be monitored by the United States in other countries. Conditions are especially bad in Mexico, where there is little, if any, regulation of the conditions of slaughter.

Some reality check issues for those who oppose horse slaughter to consider:

♦ If it’s a question of horse slaughter being inhumane, why are we still sending them to Mexico? Shipments of live horses in the U.S. cannot even be insured because of high death rates. We also allow shipment to Japan and Canada, for slaughter and consumption, or export to other countries for consumption. In the U.S., slaughter would be regulated and would be humane.

♦ If we’re not going to slaughter in the U.S., what do we realistically do with the horses, which continue to breed and increase in number? Are there really tens of thousands of people in New Mexico who are willing to take in a feral horse, spend $200 per month to feed it and what – keep it in their back yard? Keep in mind a horse can live 30 years.

♦ Some, like Animal Protection of New Mexico, propose euthanizing feral horses. Who is going to round them up? Where should they be held? Even with “standing room only,” does anyone have any idea how much land tens of thousands of horses would need? How would they be fed? Who would pay for this effort while they wait to be euthanized? And if that method of dealing with the horses could be arranged, where would you dispose of tens of thousands of horse carcasses?

These are realistic issues/questions the citizens of New Mexico need to consider.

New Mexico needs realistic solutions to the feral horse population problem. We do not need emotional, knee-jerk reactions when horse slaughter is mentioned. In the meantime, there are tens of thousands of feral horses out there in New Mexico slowly and painfully starving to death, waiting for those realistic alternatives to horse slaughter to be put forth.