By Vern and Lori Gieger
Dark Days in Equine History
In the 1930’s during the transition of the US Army from Cavalry to Tanks, thousands of US Army Horses were slaughtered, rounded up, driven to Mexico. These animals were corralled in pits, and soldiers with machine guns were ordered to kill them. After serving their country, the US Army tossed them aside and disrespectfully murdered them on foreign soil. They did not even have enough compassion and courage to humanly end their lives on US soil, the land they helped defend. For animal lovers this is the most dishonorable moment in the history of the US Army. Five honorable soldiers disobeyed orders and took approx. 400 horses, herded them back across the border and drove them north to Canada to freedom and life. According to the movie docudrama “In Pursuit of Honor” which is based upon the actual events, for one soldier the cost was high. He lost his life saving that of his 4 legged comrades.
The question is: Will Mexican soil once again run red with equine blood? Is a Mexican icon in danger of the same fate? The Mexican burro; the Mexican burro is to Mexico as the Koala is to Australia or the Panda to China…
Due to the drought situation in northern Mexico, the future of approx. 20,000 burros is uncertain; it is unclear whether the burros are domestic, feral or wild, or a combination. With this many animals involved one may assume they are mixed. The first generation born of abandoned burros is considered feral, the second generation is considered wild. It has been proposed that the burros be slaughtered in 2010. Hence the available grazing land could be used for cattle which are considered more productive and therefore more valuable. Some reports claim that the majority of the burros are wild; therefore, under Mexican law they are considered wildlife and subject to the same protection as other wild animals. Technically it would be a federal crime to kill them. It is also argued the only burros that they can prove are domestic are those with registered brands. Still others believe that the owners of the cattle are responsible for their care and therefore governmental agencies should not interfere; wilderness is for wildlife, and should not be used for grazing land, as it would only further degrade the land destroying wildlife habitat.
It is an emotional and difficult situation. Many feel that nature should be allowed to take its course. Some will survive, and the weaker animals will succumb. But it is not any more inhumane than a general slaughter in which the strong and the weak will be killed, and adding that it would be nearly impossible to transport 20,000 burros to a slaughter house. One can hope that another solution will be found and Mexico’s adorable little icons will be spared.