Category Archives: Polls

Poll: Mouthwatering Mustangs?

Mustangs at Colorado's BLM Canon City Holding Facility (C) ahmarsh 2009

There’s a bit of a twit about a Canadian cooking show that aired on May 16, 2011.  According to CNN’s Eatocracy website, the lesson for the day was how to cook traditional French food, including horsemeat.  Apparently, Food Network Canada, the show’s producers, justified the idea by playing the goodwill culture card:

Horsemeat is also considered a delicacy in many cultures around the world. While we understand that this content may not appeal to all viewers, Food Network Canada aims to engage a wide audience, embracing different food cultures in our programming.

The article stated that eating horsemeat is not just about wild horses but the photo that accompanied the article clearly suggests otherwise. Instead of showing retired race horses or petered-out pleasure ponies, the photo gives us a view of what looks like a herd of captured wild horses against a dramatic, anonymous high country backdrop.  If I were a Canadian who knew little about the wild horse controversy raging in the United States, I might connect the show with wild horses. Like, did the meat sizzling on the show’s stoves come from mustangs captured in the American West?  Is my local butcher featuring mustangs this week?

No one except maybe the top chefs and perhaps Food Network Canada knows where the meat used on the show came from; however, an Eatocracy poll from January 5, 2011, says the article, shows that “a substantial portion of the population expects to see a shift in perception toward horse meat consumption in the United States” .  The poll, titled Making a Meal of Mustang, followed brief coverage of the 2011 Summit of the Horse, which convened in Las Vegas, NV that same month.  The January poll showed that almost 35% of 24, 213 responses thought that the US would never eat horsemeat.  Of all the 5,547 responses to a previous June 22, 2010 poll about eating horses, 42% said no way, no how. 

But, what population? It’s unknown whether participants included those living in the US,  Canadians speculating about US food preferences, or both.

Back in the early part of the 20th century, mustangs in the American West were hunted down and rounded up, and many of them were sold to supply the growing pet food industry. Now, seven months away from the 40th anniversary of the passage of the 1971 Wild Free Roaming Horse and Burro Act, which federally protects these animals, we’re still talking about sending them to slaughter.  Only this time, some are trying hard to create a market for human consumption, which if successful could mean that federal protection is nothing more than government sanctioned mustanging. 

And, speaking of eating wild-caught horses, From Western Colorado wants your input and we’ve created another poll.  This time, we want to know if you would really make  a burger from horses raised on the ranges of the American West.  Poll is open until midnight  June 17, 2011.

 And, thanks for listening…

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Poll: BLM PR at Mustang Round-Ups

The good news is there were two BLM public relations officers on hand during last week’s round-up  in northwestern Colorado.  The bad news is they were ill-prepared to handle the press.  The agency is currently removing mustangs from outside the Piceance-East Douglas Herd Management Area. Last week’s operations focused on areas southeast of the HMA and in the “Doughnut Hole”, between the HMA and the North Piceance Herd Area.  Normally, these horses would be gathered along with those within the boundaries of the herd management area but BLM decided to postpone gathering the Piceance-East Douglas herd pending further studies.  Litigation has also compromised gather operations, forcing logistical changes.  These details are important for a complete understanding of current gather operations. local BLM management pracitces, and impacts on the herds.

On Wednesday and Thursday, a temporary trap site was set up on Magnolia Bench, southeast of the Piceance-East Douglas Herd Management Area.  Security was tight and observers were supervised by employees from outside the region.  PR specialists Heather Tiel-Nelson from the Twin Falls, ID field office and Denver’s Vanessa Delgado were on-hand to answer questions.  Tiel-Nelson has covered round-ups in the past and was fresh from one in Nevada but this was Delgado’s first. Both were cheerful, intelligent, and likeable;  however, neither knew about the area, local herds, or the impacts of current litigation on gather operations. Questions about anything other than logistics or the agency’s mission were referred to someone else, namely, David Boyd, public relations specialist for northwestern Colorado.  But the go-to guy was not on-site.  Boyd has been available by phone and email and was on-site over the weekend; however, the White River Field Office is trying something new this time that demands  knowledgable PR on-site at all times.

Usually, BLM holds a “media day” for observers and press at a pre-selected location for optimal round-up viewing and photo opportunities.  Everybody is escorted to the site and a PR specialist is there to answer questions.  It’s a one-day deal but for this round-up, the public can observe any and all days, 7 days a week.  To its credit, the White River Field Office is attempting to provide more insight into round-up operations; however, if transparency is the goal, why were the available PR specialists so uninformed?

From Western Colorado wants your two cents on how BLM should handle PR during a round-up.  Should imported PR specialsts be briefed about local issues? Should an employee from the local field office be on-hand at all times?  How about having a briefing with the wild horse specialist for 15 minutes?  Or, is it okay to be referred to someone else for detailed information?   Let us know what you think.

Poll is open until midnight, December 31st.

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POLL: Mustangs of the American West: What Part of “Wild” Don’t We Understand?

     There is little difference between the definitions of feral and wild. The American Heritage Dictionary defines wild as “occurring or living in a natural state, not domesticated, not cultivated”.  Feral is defined as  “existing in a wild or untamed state, of or suggestive of a wild animal”.   There is no mention of feral as meaning introduced by humans, as the Bureau of Land Management would have us believe.  Those who buy the feral brand want to believe that these horses are just waiting for humans to come rescue them from the hardship of living on the range.

     Yes, modern herds now roaming the public domain have roots in stock released to the range by humans, from the Spanish Conquistadors over half a century ago to Native Americans, cattledrovers, homesteaders, and ranchers up through the Great Depression.  But, that doesn’t mean they are not wild. It doesn’t mean that those currently on the range are not living in a natural, untamed state.  Ask anyone who has ever adopted a wild horse just how difficult it is to tame one.  Ask observers at the current Calico Complex round-up just how easy it was for the black stallion who leapt to his freedom over a six-foot fence to remember his dutiful connection to human beings. 

     In his book, Into the Wind, scientist and wild horse expert, Dr. Jay Kirkpatrick writes:

[the feral definition] fails to project a picture of extremely wary animals, most of which view man with the same affection they feel for mountain lions or bears. The feral designation tends to create images of old barnyard plugs, standing on the edges of farms and ranches, waiting for handouts or simply waiting to die because of their former owners’ neglect. In the case of wild horses, nothing could be further from the truth (p. 25).

      Last summer, I witnessed the Pryor Mountain herd on its home range, high in Montana’s Arrowhead Mountains, and was astonished at how different they are from, say, my neighbor’s horses.  There was a liveliness and interaction between the horses and their surroundings I couldn’t explain but that I knew was completely different from that of domesticated horses in a private pasture.  The wild ones are constantly moving, constantly touching each other, always playing, fighting, grooming.  There was a dynamic within the herd that was missing from the other horses I’d seen in my lifetime, all of which were domesticated.  That dynamic, I found out, is the difference between a wild horse and a domesticated horse.  Ginger Kathrens, director of the Cloud Foundation and noted mustang advocate, says that’s because “wild horses are not dependent on humans for their environment”. 

     The Wild Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Act of 1971 mandates that these herds are “to be considered as an integral part of the natural system of the public lands”.  In its original form, the Act sought to give exclusive protection to these animals largely because, as wild animals who lived on the range, they deserved it. Over the past 40 years, however, the spirit of the law has become mired in pointless arguments over whether they are feral, wild, or exotic.  They are not game animals like elk, deer, antelope, or bighorn sheep. They’re not livestock, like the millions of permitted cattle that graze the public domain.  Nor are they considered native wildlife, despite evidence to the contrary.  They are not misfits and outlyers; they have adapted quite well to their surroundings and thrive to the point of contention in the rugged, hard-scrabble deserts and mountains of the American West. 

     In a recent LA Times op-ed (reprinted here in the Miami Herald),  Interior Secretary, Ken Salazar, enjoins us to “raise the stature of the wild horse”.  For this to happen, we must move away from limiting definitions.  From Western Colorado wants to know if there’s room in the public discourse for a discussion about a special designation for wild, free-roaming horses and burros. 

     Let us know what you think.  This poll will remain open until February 1, 2010.

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POLL: Wild Horse Round-Up Moratorium: Yay or Neigh?

The Bureau of Land Management wants to remove close to 12,000 wild horses and burros from the western range before October 2010, but a posse of mustang advocates is trying to head ’em off at the pass.  Over a hundred organizations, individuals, and scientists from around the globe are calling for a moratorium on round-ups.   In a November 18th letter to President Obama, inaccurate population data and range statistics as well as fiscal and legal complications of moving herds from their western ranges were cited as reasons to stop gathering the herds until other solutions are brought to the table.

Some of these proposed solutions will be examined in future posts but, for now, From Western Colorado wants to know what you think.   Poll is open through Christmas Eve.  Stay tuned…and thanks for listening.

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