(Just kidding – I’ll be on a horse)
The Trump budget cut isn’t well thought through. Firstly, there are no slaughter houses in the US processing horses for meat, and recent attempts to open new abattoirs have resulted in passionate local protests. Secondly, the horses could go to Mexico or Canada, but both countries are obliged to keep horses for six months before slaughter to ensure there’s no drug residue in their meat if they want to sell to Europe (and horsemeat exports from Mexico have long been suspended in Europe). This makes horsemeat a lot more expensive to produce. A Canadian plant has already closed as a result of this requirement. So who would slaughter these mustangs?
There are many, many historical antecedents for this latest move, some of which I mention in The Age of the Horse. It’s a familiar cycle full of themes that come up over and over. Here’s just one example, from the Bismarck Tribune on August 15, 1919:
Montana must exterminate its wild horse herds.
Washington dispatches carry discouraging news for those who hope to see the Montana wild horse converted into meat for hungry Europe. American commercial attaches have forwarded from France and Belgium to the American capital data indicating that the expected market does not exist. In the first place, the people will not eat frozen horsemeat. In the second place, horses consigned to the butcher must be slaughtere, within the cities or districts in which they are to be consumed. The Montana plan contemplated slaughter at some point in the state, with sale of the bi-products [sic] in America. It had always been supposed that a ready market for the meat would be found abroad. There is still another plan – to render the wild horse for his products and sell the meat for fertiliser. This, it is said, it may prove feasible. The wild horse has been a problem in the state for some years. The animals number hundreds of thousands and consume a vast amount of range. There is not profit in rounding up the beasts, since they cannot be sold, except a rare few. Hunting them, as well, is no child’s play. They are fleet and wary and the hunter on a horse has little chance to overtake them. Yet the beasts must go. Stockmen are determined on that. The matter was recently discussed in the state convention of the stockmens association and it was stated that tremendous herds of cattle and sheep could be maintained on the grass the world horses eat. The beasts probably are descendants of Indian horses. They are of the poorest stock and are difficult to domesticate and almost worthless when tamed. They travel in bands and are formidable fighters with tooth and hoof, when aroused or cornered.
American Woman Riding Side-Saddle on the Road at Hommoku, Motomura, Yokohama, by Utagawa Hiroshige II (Japanese, 1829–1869). This woodblock print dates from 1861. It belongs to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, who have generously made many of their public domain images free for anyone to use.
Deanne Stillman’s Mustang: The Saga of the Wild Horse in the American West came out in 2008 and remains definitive. It takes you from the arrival of the first Conquistadors’ horses – like Pedro de Alvarado’s “bright bay mare” “good both for tilting and to race” and the grey “Bobtail” who was “fast, and had a splendid mouth” – to the politicking of the Bush years when America’s wild horses once more came under threat. It will give you some pointers about their fate in the next four years, too. Her next book, Blood Brothers, flows out of it and tells the story of Sitting Bull and Buffalo Bill. Simon and Schuster will publish in the autumn.
Those of you who like books but have to fit them into a life that includes school runs, commutes, housework, an exercise schedule and/or poo-picking might be interested in the audio version of Mustang. It features the voices of Anjelica Huston, Frances Fisher, Wendie Malick, Richard Portnow and John Densmore.
Tennessee Walker or Saddlebred? What do we think?
Cliff Yamashita, a retired tow truck driver, owns Miley and her new colt, Titan. Like most of his fellow boarders, he likes to go riding at nearby Point Pinole Regional Shoreline. He said he would probably have to sell both animals if he gets kicked out.
“I can’t afford the other stables,” he said. “Nobody here can. There are nicer stables, sure, but they charge you for that. As long as the horse is taken care of, it doesn’t mind what the stable looks like.”
Inspectors from the city and from the animal control department visited the property this month. A spokesman for the animal control department said the animals all looked fine.
“The horses were all healthy, with food and water,” said Steve Burdo, a spokesman for the department. “There were no issues of abuse or neglect.”
Code enforcement officers issued abatement orders and installed padlocks on the gates leading to what they said were the illegal dumps next door, but allowed the horses to remain. Horse owners said the city inspectors told them they did not even know there was a stable on the property. City Manager Bill Lindsay said the stable had operated “under the radar.”
At that, the horse owners whinnied in disbelief. It’s not easy, they said, to hide 100 horses for 17 years.