Friday, April 14, 2017

Headlines that couldn't possibly be more off the mark: "Wild Horses Are Being Pushed to Extinction By Cattle Ranching – Sign Petition to Stop This!" No, don't.

Uff, so many things wrong in one headline it can hardly be imagined:

Wild Horses Are Being Pushed to Extinction By Cattle Ranching – Sign Petition to Stop This!

This showed up in my news feed, which includes "agriculture".

What's wrong you say?

Well, this:
  •  There are no wild horses in the United States, none, and never have been.  Horses are not native to post Pleistocene North America.  They are invasive species.
  • "Wild Horses", to the extent there's something called that, erroneously, in the United States are genetically identical for the most part to every other grade horse you see around and are a long darned ways from being "extinct". Want to see a real "wild horse". Go to Mongolia.
  • "Wild" horses are a nuisance species to start with and shouldn't be on the public domain, or if they should be, it should be in small numbers.  They're really destructive.
Now, before I get accused of anything, I don't hate horses.  I really like horses, in fact. But I do dislike fake news of any kind, and fake history.

"Wild horses", in the US, are all descendants of horses that have been lost or dumped.  They became lost or dumped over a long period of time, going all the way back to Spanish North America and all the way forward to the oilfield depression of the 1970s and 80s.  That horse out there on the range is just as likely to be descendant from a farmers plow horse (truly) as a Conquistador's mount.  Indeed, the last thing a lot of failed farmers of the 1930s did was to open the gate and let Ol' Betty go.

All invasive species, with rare exception, are destructive.  People wouldn't get all berserk about feral cats or feral cattle (both of which exist).  You don't see headlines stating:

Wild Cats Are Being Pushed to Extinction By Urban Parks – Sign Petition to Stop This!

And cattle ranching is the only thing that keeps wild areas wild in much of the west.  Drive out the ranches and get the ranchettes.  No wild horses there.

But, for reasons that are too difficult to discern, Americans are hopelessly romantic about horses. Which makes the thinking on them more than a little odd.

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