To watch the nightly news showing long lines of drivers accepting food handouts because their families are hungry is depressing. To know the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is spending $50 million of taxpayers’ money to feed 50,000 wild (feral) horses being held in corrals is disgusting. In addition to these animals, the BLM is allowing at least 60,000 more animals to destroy the range because they are exceeding the Appropriate Management Level (AML) mandated by the Wild and Free Roaming Horse and Burro Act (WFRHBA). The AML has been established to be 26,700 animals.
As a trained biologist, this destruction of the range bothers me, but this concern pales when compared to the empathy I have as a retired teacher who has witnessed the learning difficulties that children experience because they lack protein in their diet. During the Great Depression, during World War II and during several special periods since the war, people have found this protein by eating horse meat. Now is one of those times. Many advanced countries around the world are aware of this and don’t have to be prompted to include horse meat in their diets.
For years, I have advocated these surplus animals be fed to the poor. Everybody I have talked to seems to think this is a good idea. But contacting our elected officials has proven to be a waste of my effort and time. Their responses have ranged from they are putting more money into the budget to develop a program to control the animals’ fertility, step up adoption, and expand holding facilities in other parts of the country. They further informed me it is against the law to slaughter horses because their meat is unhealthy because they get shots of medicine. And then there was the one who said there are no meat inspectors to certify the meat. What a cop-out.
A country that can build and send a rocket into space should be able to come up with a way to get the precious protein found in these animals into the diets of the poor. These animals receive no shots and would qualify as organic. I know the “Greatest Generation” I grew up emulating would have found a way. I do have a plan I feel could make this happen, and it appears to me to be able to pay for itself. This would involve a fleet of mobile slaughter units. I have been told these units cost about $100,000, the price of feeding 100 horses for a year. These units can butcher about seven horses per day. That would be a savings of about $7,000, which would certainly pay for all labor and operating costs. From these seven animals one might expect about 2,000 pounds of high-protein ground meat. The value of this meat in the diets of children would be priceless.
With 50,000 horses in corrals and another 60,000 exceeding the AML, it would probably take five years for a fleet of 20 mobile units to get the job done. After the initial five years, there would probably still be enough excess horses to keep two units taking care of the annual excesses.
Each of these units would cause to be employed three or four full-time workers. The need for refrigeration units might be met by military surplus. The contracting of a rendering company to remove the offal and other waste products must be considered. The training of a BLM employee to be a meat inspector could come from the ranks of employees presently hired to feed the animals. Some organization like Feeding America could be in charge of distributing the meat to the poor. To get program commitment it might require the BLM to grant the owner of the mobile unit an interest-free loan with a clause the final five years of payments would be forgiven after they worked five years.
As I see it, the big problem will be finding enough votes in Congress who feel the lives of children are more valuable than the lives of horses to make this happen. Finding alternatives for the hay farmers might be problematic, but knowing farmers, I am sure they share my empathy for the poor and they will find a way.