Should We Protect Wild Horses? – The NY Times Ethicist
There are many good reasons to protect the wild horse populations of the United States. Cattle and energy land grabs are the reason why horses are deemed to be overpopulating. As herbivores go, horses are better at maintaining their ecological land niche when compared to modern cattle.The ethics of giving land to personal gain of cattle barons should be considered as well. A person who thinks wild horses and burros are simply an unjustified invasive species is someone who either has an agenda against horses or they are ignorant of the facts readily available. They should read biologist’s Robert Bauer’s response. The Ethicist, Chuck Kiosterman, of The New York Times navigates these charged waters without looking deeply at the politics or science behind the question. ~ HfH
From: New York Times
By: Chuck Kiosterman
Question: Despite their romantic appeal, horses are an invasive species on this continent with few natural predators. In the United States, it’s illegal to kill a wild horse on public lands. Yet wild horses can have destructive grazing behavior, and indigenous grazers and browsers (deer, for example) presumably have to compete with them for land. Advocates for wild horses like to compare the ecological impact of horses with that of cattle, but that’s sort of like saying we should protect the Asian long-horned beetle because it kills fewer trees than lumber mills do. Is it unethical to protect wild horses? T.G., NEW YORK
Answer: It should be noted that the ancestral lineage of the modern horse has origins in North America, from about four million years ago. From here, they migrated to Eurasia over the Bering land bridge and became extinct in North America at the end of the Pleistocene era, only to be reintroduced to the Western Hemisphere by the Spanish in the 16th century. But I don’t see this as a meaningful part of the dispute, anyway. Regardless of how horses ended up here, they’re here now. Your argument is that wild horses hurt the environment; I’d argue that wild horses have become part of the environment itself. Horses alter the ecological landscape, but we’d be altering the landscape by eliminating the horses.