As sometimes happens I read my mail late, but I'm glad that today I picked up the February 2011 newsletter
from the International Society for the Protection of Mustangs and Burros (ISPMB). A mouthful to be sure, but this wonderful group's first president was none other than Wild Horse Annie (Velma Johnston) herself! How proud she must be that this group is carrying on her work to the present day, but it certainly is not without its challenges.
THE SLAUGHTER SUMMIT. Karen Sussman, the current president is certainly a credit to championing the rights of the wild horses in the same spirit as Wild Horse Annie. She recently attended what I would characterize as going into the lion's den -the Slaughter Summit. As the name indicates, most of the attendees' one goal was to convince the people present- as well as the American people as a whole that they are only interested in the "suffering" horses' welfare. Their solution- slaughter most of them! They want to start up a slaughter house in every state with auction yards right next door. Anyone with any sense of right or wrong would come to realize that these proponents of horse slaughter have only one real interest in mind and that is not for the horses' welfare. The bottom line for them is profit.
When Sussman spoke, she made the observation that out of 9 million wild horses -900,000 have been slaughtered annually for the past decade. (Too many for most of us who care about them.) Her point though was that if these people present REALLY cared - taking care of this many more horses would not be all that challenging or difficult if their "concerns" were valid.
Thankfully, Bob Abbey of the BLM also spoke to the participants at the Summit and told them in no uncertain terms- the BLM will not allow sale authority of slaughter of the horses in the holding pastures. He also stated that BLM will always have wild horses and burros on public land. His response was welcomed by all who appreciate the wild horses of the West.
One last thought re this meeting of "unlike" minds which made me smile. Ed Butcher of MT tried to discredit Karen Sussman's speech by saying people like her who live in cities and have little horse experience don't know what they're talking about. It would seem that it was he who didn't know what he was talking about. Sussman was no city gal. She has been riding since she was four, and was in the horse industry with 30 years experience. She has managed four wild herds since 1999. I truly appreciate her courage in appearing at this clearly unfriendly "gool ole boys" slaughter summit, though sadly, I know of a corpulent Wyoming woman legislator who may have been there as well. She is very anxious to restart her family's business for slaughtering horses for the tables of Europe. Sussman was more than equal to the challenge, and if the horses could speak, they would say - atta girl, Karen, and thank you.
ISPMB's work is now focusing on the the need to once again work toward reversing the devastating Burn's amendment to the Wild Horses and Burros Act. Slipped in with an appropriation bill in 2004, this amendment allowed for horses over the age of ten to be sold to the highest bidder - the majority of them "meat" men. Sadly, all the anti-slaughter bills have died, and this means that new bills must be introduced into committee, voted upon, and then brought before the House of Representatives. How sad that the unjust "legacy" of former Senator Burns of Montana lives on. Hopefully, someone will again introduce a new anti-slaughter bill soon. As for Burns, it is interesting to note that he suffered a crippling stroke just five years almost to the date when he slipped this rider into the Appropriations bill which put our wild horses at great risk.
MISS LITTLE EARS. I always love to read one of the stories about the wild horses ISPMB features in each of their newsletters. This one is about a foal who was soon to be born at a very bad weather time. Little Miss Ears made her appearance as the temperatures dropped quickly right before the Thanksgiving Holiday. (She is a beauty as I look upon her picture in the flyer.) But with temps of 18 degrees and blizzard conditions soon to follow, she was at serious risk in these freezing temperatures.
Sussman and Shawn, the ranch manager, set out to capture this tiny bay filly. No easy task to separate a foal just a few days old from her mother. They will fight like lions to save their babies. They pulled up in their truck and waited for the best moment possible. Then Shawn went in to grab the filly as Sussman waved her arms to push the mother away. Mission accomplished as Sussman drove the truck away with Miss Little Ears in the bed of the truck with Shawn holding her securely.
Shawn put Miss Little Ears into a stall and then quickly ran out -as by now the mother had caught up to them.
What a beautiful sight to see mother and daughter reunited in a soft shavings stall right next to their Gila stallion Santiago. Within two weeks Miss Little Ears lost the tops of her ears from frost bite, but she was alive. It was doubtful that she would have made it without this intervention.
Both Miss Little Ears and mom are doing fine. The little foal often slips under the stall to visit Santiago and he even doesn't mind when she tries to nurse from him. With the coming of Spring, Mother and Miss Little Ears will be released back into the Virginia Range herd. Santiago will head out to the upper pasture where he will enjoy the grass and open space.
What a happy ending to what could have been a tragedy. Every life is precious and I'm sure that Sussman, Shawn, and Miss Little Ears and her mom can attest to that. And, of course, all of us who appreciate all of God's human and animal crealtion.