Saturday Morning Do-Gooders
New York City is currently having trouble with animal rights activists over horse-drawn carriages. This should come as no surprise, as animal rights activists have been at the forefront of the destruction of the rural West for fifty years.
It's the invasion of the Saturday morning do-gooders, so named because their worldview was shaped many years ago by Saturday morning television cartoons of courageous children making a difference and saving the animals from those mean men.
One of the horses that pulls a carriage around New York's Central Park collapsed and died the other day while trotting along. Shock. Dismay. Edita Birnkrant, the New York director of Friends of Animals, laid aside her Weekly Reader long enough to opine that the use of horse-drawn carriages in a city like New York constitutes animal abuse. "[H]orses are ending up dead," she said. Animal rights advocates want to ban the horse-drawn carriages, but Mayor Bloomberg called the carriages "something that is part of New York's heritage[.]"
This particular controversy has gained nationwide attention, but when it comes to western states, the enormous devastation caused by animal rights advocates the assault on the local heritage is either ignored or applauded.
Fifty-some-odd years ago, Velma Johnson, a file clerk from Reno, Nevada, was offended that wild horses were being rounded up. By 1971, she had organized the schoolteachers of America to instruct the children in their custody to make a difference and write to Congress to Save the Mustangs, a symbol of the West, from cowboys who hate horses. And were turning them into dog food. And were threatening them with extinction. For money. The Kiddie Crusade.
Congress was flooded with childish letters. To no one's surprise, the strategy worked. Congress passed the 1971 Wild Horse and Burro Act, and Nixon signed it into law. The mustang herds were nationalized and confiscated, and it became illegal for a citizen to approach a mustang.
There were 26,000 free-roaming mustangs when the 1971 Act was passed. As an afterthought, the Bureau of Land Management, the agency with whom the care and feeding of 26,000 wild horses was entrusted, looked at the mustang ranges and determined that the maximum number of horses the feed would carry was 26,000 head. That number has never been seen again.
Horses multiply at a rate of 20% a year. By 1976, mustangs were overpopulated and starving. Every mustang roundup is a court battle. There are now 36,000 head of mustangs running loose and another 34,000 head that have been caught up and are waiting for "adoption." Large numbers of horses have starved or died of thirst, and large amounts of range land have been grazed to desert due to the interference of animal activists -- horse protectionists -- in court, saving the horses from capture. The horses that are caught are turned over to a bureaucracy modeled on an urban welfare department and are put up for "adoption" and assigned a social worker to keep tabs on the "home envirionment of the adoptive family." Mustangs. A symbol of the West. Threatened with extinction.
Prior to the 1971 act, mustangs were a local problem, and people who spent their lives in the livestock industry rounded up the surplus and sold them along with other horses. There were and are ordinances against animal neglect and abuse in every county in the West, and these rules are vigorously enforced -- except where mustangs are concerned, since that is the feds' jealously guarded jurisdiction. Those responsible for starvation and mismanagement of mustangs are neither arrested nor jailed -- rather, they are shielded and respected. "Nora" voices the conventional wisdom of horse protectionists on a Horse Protectinist website regarding a mustang roundup to alleviate overgrazing and starvation. She writes, "If the horses are in such poor condition, why would the BLM add insult to injury by pushing these emaciated horses for miles over rought terrain? Why not just allow the winter conditions to take their toll on the starving horses and let them die where they were born and have every right to be[?]" Same to you, Nora.
The federal government owns 31% of the United States, virtually all in western states. Prior to the cultural revolution of the '60s, this was where the mining, logging, and ranching for the nation were found. The land is designated by law as multiple-use, and the bureaucratic presence was basically invisible in the ranching business. The grass and water were managed rationally as private property, which they were.
A ranch consists of grass and water, and banks would loan on these assets. But since then, grazing rights have morphed into "permits" that may or may not be renewed or may be changed as to the amount of livestock permitted to graze at the whim of a bureaucrat. A great many ranches have ceased operation. Ranching is a difficult business at best, but it's especially so in the canyons, peaks, and desert of the sagebrush country, where it might take 100 acres to produce enough grass for one cow -- and this without coping with the arbitrary rules of a naive or even hostile bureaucracy. The funding base has been damaged as banks look askance at the uncertainty of the permits. Sale or brokerage of the properties is hindered since the true value is difficult to ascertain due to the shifting regulations and danger of litigation. Then there are the ever-present lawsuits by environmentalists hysterical over cows eating grass, stepping on turtles, creating cow pies for recreationists to deal with, and emitting life-threatening greenhouse flatulence. And vast herds of hungry horses roaming at will, sacrosanct like sacred cows in India.
The ranches of the Great Basin, the Intermountain West, are horseback outfits. They are where the mustangs are. They are the buckaroo ranches that have changed little since the 1880s. They were renowned while America still respected John Wayne. They came into question when Woody Allen became America's idol and are totally politically incorrect now that the national hero is the Single Mom. The left in the sagebrush states drive around with bumper stickers proclaiming, "NO MORE MOO." "COWBOY FREE." "INVADE TIBET."
The left's infringement on millions of acres of ranch land and the federal bureaucracy's confiscation of the horse herds found there read like Stalin's approach to the Kulak problem. Hippies poured off of the Berkeley campus in '65, singing "This Land is Our Land," and were appalled to discover that people lived and worked in the mountains, deserts, and forests they thought were great big parks for them to frolic in and exhibit their inner child. People had lived there for generations. It was their home. They were called American citizens. But our Saturday morning do-gooders are up to the challenge of going out there and making a difference.
Problems with mustangs are considered cartoon channel subject matter by the media and the great urban mass, but this is an adult preoccupation in the intermountain West. The wreck of the rural West is the result of a consolidation of left-wing power in federal bureaucracies and a warning to all Americans on how bad it can get.