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Wild horses aren't in the land of the free, author says

June 2, 2008 | 10:48 am


Wild horses, better known as mustangs, have been protected by federal laws since the early 1970s, but many are still being shipped off by cattle ranchers to the slaughterhouse, says Deanne Stillman in today's Opinion section:

At the beginning of the 20th century, there were about 2 million mustangs in the wilderness; according to the government, there are about 23,000 on public lands in the Western states now, and more than half are in Nevada. Wild horse advocates, however, say the number is much lower. Because the animals have been "zeroed out" from at least 100 of their 300 official herd areas (contrary to the 1971 law's provisions), they may be on the brink of no return.

Many cattle ranchers have long regarded wild horses as "pests" that steal food from their herds. The livestock lobby has tried to dismantle the wild horse and burro law through four U.S. administrations, and it has the political clout to push policy toward a mustang-free America.

Stillman writes that the mustangs are more than just animals but symbolize America's heritage, and urges a moratorium on wild horse removals until a population count is conducted.

-- Francisco Vara-Orta

Photo: Katey Barret/Times archive

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