The Story of Conrad Burns and Wild Horses
Thanks to Kurt Brungardt, writing in the November issue of Vanity Fair, we now know the extent to which Bush Administration officials and key GOP members of Congress have conspired to erode the protections that for a generation have protected wild horses in America. Unfortunately, the article is not available online (at least I couldn't find it. If you can, please post it below and thank you). Trust me when I tell you that it will make you think again about your opposition to the American Horse Slaughter Prevfention Act, which passed the House this fall and might get a vote in the Senate after the election. And if you don't trust me, spend the time (30 minutes or so) and the money ($4.50) to buy yourself an issue of the magazine.
Brungardt starts with the story of "Wild Horse Annie" (a horse-saving crusader named Velma Johnson) and the landmark 1971 federal legislation that he says "banned the inhumane treatment of wild horses and put safeguards into place so they couldn't be sold for slaughter." Then Brungardt reports, the law was "gutted" in December 2004 when Sen. Conrad Burns (R-Mont.) inserted a "one-page rider into a 3,300 page budget-appropriations bill on the eve of the bill's congressional deadline." The rider removed federal protection for wild horses. When some of Sen. Burns's colleagues found out about the rider, Brungardt reports, they were "outraged." Didn't matter. President Bush, Brungardt reports, signed off on the rider while the Administration altered Bureau of Land Management rules to undercut even further wild-horse protection.
Congress then took things one step further. The House passed a measure with broad bipartisan support to reinstate legal protections for wild horses. Guess who exercised his perogative to block it in the Senate? That's right, Conrad Burns, the politician from Montana. There are more details and nuggets in Brungardt's piece, including the following: 1) almost as soon as the Congress passed that 1971 law it began to undercut it, in the 1970s in the Ford and Carter Administrations; 2) the Reagan Administration, with the help of people like former Senator Paul Laxalt (R-Nev.), escalated this process; 3) the BLM was complicit in this implied dismantling of the 1971 mustang protection law; 4) Clinton-era officials mildly stood up more often for wild horses; and 5) the Bush Administration, with the help of Conrad Burns, has made things terribly worse for the mustangs.
It comes down to this, Brungardt reports: under existing laws and rules, wild horses may be delivered for free to people, who then came turn them around and sell them to third parties who may do whatever they want with them, even sell them for slaugher, because the BLM has no interest in pursuing any sorts of investigations into such conduct. So how do you feel about the fact that the White and Congress now condone a process by which precious assets of the United States (the horses) are given out for free to people who then make a buck re-selling the animals to the slaughterers? It makes me sick. And I hope one day that Conrad Burns is called to account for being a man from Montana who claims to be pro "livestock" while at the same time devastating the enduring symbol of the American West.
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