Carlisle Harrison


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.


Carlisle Harrison lives in Hermiston and is a retired educator.

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(6) comments

Puller Lanigan

It is disappointing that you use 'biologist' as a panacea for all knowing. Surely, if you are a biologist, you would understand the issues with modern horse medicine and why it is not used in animals meant for human (or pet) consumption. In WWII and earlier, horse medicine was not what it is today, therefore, horses were left behind to feed war torn areas where livestock had been consumed by armies of soldiers. And humans still died from diseases borne by livestock (and wildlife); Tuberculosis, Trichinosis, Anthrax, Q Virus, Ebola, CWD, COVID, etc. Wild horses removed from their HMAs or HAs, are vaccinated and wormed. Animals injured are treated accordingly. Stallions are sedated for gelding. Mares receive PZP. In other words, they receive the same prohibited drugs for livestock that domestic horses receive. I am unsure how money spent protecting animals who were designated those protections by Congress is considered a waste of resources. Certainly not by 80% of Americans. If the original herd areas were restored (>50% have been eliminated), there may not be the 'overpopulation' quoted by BLM. When BLM starts utilizing holistic methods of scrutiny in land management, they should see that land can only be used by so many resources - not all resources. Especially without restoration. When wild horses make up 11% of the usage, one needs to look more closely at the source of the 89% of land use. The horses are a scapegoat and their removal will not solve the issues of dying land and loss of water.

Cierra Buer

When you think of the USA and its iconic animals, two come to mind. The American Bald Eagle, and the horse. This country was built upon the backs of horses. Some were set free long ago, and have become a part of the wilderness. Especially in the West. So, I don’t think you will convince anyone that we should be eating American icons. Especially if it is just because they are around and some people are poor. If you want to talk about waste of ACTUAL food, lets talk about all the fields that the government pays people to plow under, or all the good fruits and vegetables that go to waste or get thrown out by producers, grocery stores, etc. There is no reason to be eating these animals, when there is so much plant based food going to waste. I agree, we should not waste food resources. Where we differ, is in what we consider food. Put your thoughts and education towards farmers and not ranchers. That is where the future of food security lies.

Claudia Simpson

You're a teacher? I feel bad for your students. You probably spew the same misinformation in your classroom. You sound like one of those greedy ranchers that wants all the horses wiped out cause they want the grassland all for their cattle. I can imagine how everyone rolls their eyes when you go on and on about eating horses. Go do something useful like teach biology if that's really what you do and leave the horses alone. Crack pot.

Eileen Castro

This is wrong on so many levels. If this guy really knows what he was suggesting, then he is a danger to society. Horse meat is not for human consumption. Our horses are treated with a variety of medications that are proven to be cancerous in humans, as well as causing birth defects. No American horse should EVER be eaten. It is tainted meat. This is so frightening to read due to the miseducation of the person writing it, and those who read it and have no understanding of the dangerous of consuming horse meat.

Selena Akerley

It states that you're an educator and yet apparently you're incapable of reading! NUMEROUS times the public has voiced their opinions on this matter for MANY YEARS now and it hasn't changed yet. Horses are NOT even classified as livestock. They are classified as PETS. And mustangs are protected because Americans want it that way. We don't eat our dogs or cats here either. I know! In other countries they do. Well, if your heart is set on eating pets, you're free to move there and don't let the door hit you in the back side on your way out! We love our horses and we're not EVER going to stop fighting tooth and nail for them. Ever. EVER.

Courtney Scott

Killing horses to feed the poor is simply cruelty and an insult to the poor. This assumes it would be just fine for those who are food deprived, and many are due to lockdowns, to slaughter horses for food. What sustains people is protein and carbohydrates, rice and beans and vegetables do that for millions of people around the world. A plant based diet is the most economical and the healthiest. Horses are gentle creatures who provide therapy to children and the disabled. That is how to relate to horses and to utilize their valuable assets, not butchering them. And even the WHO says lockdowns don't work and advises against them, so if those were lifted, more people could get back to work and be able to provide food for their families. Let's look at cruelty free solutions, and not butcher innocent horses.

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