The American Mustang Nation is making its last stand.
After decades of cynically eroding the safety net of dedicated lands and protective regulations created in the early 1970s after an outcry by the American Public, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), entrusted by us with Wild Horse protection and management, is not far from wiping them out entirely and deliberately. A recent plan to execute 35,000 wild horses languishing in private captivity at taxpayers’ expense was stalled, but not necessarily abandoned, when wild horse advocates publicly sounded the alarm.
A huge and ambitious preservation project conceived by a well-known horse advocate is working valiantly to intervene and to provide a safe haven for some of the threatened horses. At the same time, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), while maintaining an option to kill its current prisoners for lack of money, continues against all conventional logic to conduct “gathers,” their euphemism for the brutal abduction, incarceration, splintering and frequent death of Mustang families and herds.
To a great extent, it is the self-serving business considerations of cattle ranchers, enjoying the bargain usage of our public lands, which are leaving the future of the wild horses in the dust of the helicopters which are terrorizing and forcing them into a chute to oblivion.
The battle cry of wild horse supporters often heard ringing sincerely in the air is that the Mustangs warrant protection because they represent our Western Heritage, that horses have served humanity in war and work, and that they should be saved for the benefit of our children and future generations.
To rely on this argument, however, is akin to arguing that Africans brought forcibly and tragically to this country as slaves deserved their freedom as a reward for all their hard labor, or because their songs and traditions were picturesque. It is as perpendicular to the truth as saying that the splendor of the National Parks should be spared from development because future generations will appreciate a lovely vacation spot. We know these are not the real reasons to do the right thing. They contain some facts, but they are not the Truth.
No, consider instead that the Mustangs generate and perhaps even deserve our love, awe, consideration, protection and respect because they are another ancient and dignified nation of Earthlings, a parallel civilization which developed without our input or despite it, fellow Earth-dwellers of a different and brilliant design with a self-evident interest in survival and life on their own terms. They open their eyes at birth and see the same world to which we as newborn humans awaken, a challenging landscape in which they, like us, and much more quickly than us, must find a safe path to travel. Walking and running that difficult path, their feet feelthe same Earth beneath them as do ours. It is an Earth that is also theirs, despite the papers and rituals we have invented in order to believe that we own something that is far beyond ownership. They are not interlopers, their trail began here. That they are beautiful, or that they signify something meaningful to our species is true, and yet misses the heart of the Truth.
To the extent that a reminder of the horses’ role in human history can be persuasive in the campaign to prevent their genocide, it may be a helpful reference. However, if we hope to once and for all stop the war against them, no matter how often greed and politics lift their unsleeping heads in the future, we must understand to our cores that their worth is not solely in our eyes. We who would save the Mustang permanently must demand that those to whom we have entrusted their guardianship do what is right simply because it is right, rather than in the interest of human benefit, past, present or future. There are also benefits, in some human hearts, to eradicating this noble Nation.
If we battle these crimes against them not as repayment for the horse’s servitude or beauty, but in the name of Justice, we can stop the present stampede into extinction and prevent the next. For if the children who will someday captain our businesses and governments are taught and feel this Truth now, their grown generation will not need to protect the Mustangs. As respected fellow Earthlings, even fellow Americans, the free and natural Horse will not then be under attack.
Unless, unthinkably, we fail today.
Unless, by then, they are just a magnificent memory.