EDITORIAL, new WHE volunteer:
I was recently talking to our founder, Laura Leigh, about matters in advocacy in general and the projects WHE is focused on. She was exhausted and frustrated. The work WHE does is not for one or two small herds that are easy to get to, the work is focused primarily on wild horses managed by the federal government in massive areas of the West.
WHE has always focused on what is called “tool building.” First, we wanted to create a humane handling policy. We filed litigation to access roundups and filed litigation against inappropriate treatment of horses (litigation with a strategy and defined outcome). WHE won both of those and then a policy was created for humane handling and there was an access memorandum (we also got a closed facility to reopen to tours). WHE worked with journalist Dave Philipps and exposed the flaws in the sale program that sent over 1700 wild horse to a kill buyer, and then the paperwork in that program was tightened (even though there was no prosecution).
WHE then turned to the core issue, range management (horses being removed and landing in holding and increasingly at risk of going to sale, slaughter, with 50,000 already in that precarious place sitting in pens).
Advocates do not manage wild horses and burros, the federal government does. Advocates do manage the public perception of the reality of management through things like social media. They manage the image of their organization. They manage a perception of what advocating is.
Other uses like livestock don’t manage wild horses and burros, they manage a perception of what management is. They manage an image of what they are. Many of them want to manage all of our public resource and resume mustanging, or removing and sending horses to slaughter for profit, (what the 1971 law stopped when it gave jurisdiction to the federal government).
The federal government manages the vast majority of wild horses and burros. They also manage public perception of the issues. They also manage a public image of who they are and what (and how) they actually do.
Laura was talking about her frustrations. She was talking about the lacks of factual information in the public sphere. She was talking about the attacks on her and WHE by people trying to stop the work of WHE on the ground. She was talking about the lacks of communication and a bureaucracy monster that bogs down change year after year. She was talking about broken people and a broken system. Then she cried for the horses.
She said something that really stuck with me; “On one hand I can have all the empathy in the world for what people are doing. I understand the needs of broken people to manipulate to create a reality that provides them with a comfort. But on the other hand I want to grab them and shake them like a failing flashlight to see if the lights go back on.”
I have known Laura a long time. I am not a wild horse advocate in any traditional sense, but I know Laura. She is someone that hates confrontation, but is very good at it. She is someone that would rather build a bridge than blow one up (but I also know she is very good with explosives). I have seen her step forward in the past to place herself on the line to bring a larger truth into the light.
She said she was tired of people failing to recognize opportunity for change. She said she was tired of the lack of integrity and honesty. She said she was tired and did not even know where to start because she felt like she had already said everything, but no one really listens, they just listen to respond in a twisted fashion to suit whatever agenda they are following that day (that may have nothing to do with agenda they followed yesterday).
In many ways I am an outsider to inner circles of advocacy for wild horses, but what I see on social media almost mirrors that fatigue. I see the fatigue fueling up day after day with people building castles out of matchsticks. Those buildings will either collapse or burn, and the horses will be left butchered on the range through surgery, or we will see them sent to slaughter. We will continue to see special interests exert unethical tactics to keep control over public resource. (Perhaps I am a wild horse advocate by proxy because I am simply her friend? That is for me to figure out).
I told her I am grabbing her like a flashlight to see if her light goes back on. I then told her to grab the flashlights and shake them. If the light does not go back on, swing it like a club.
I told her I would create a beginning for her. She gave me the password to this website. There are bolded paragraphs in my editorial, pick one Laura and begin again. YOU are a tool built in advocacy and we can not afford your light to go out.
I do not know how to add photos to the pages and do not have the time to figure it out. I do not know if this post is acceptable for WHE or not. I am going to pass the drivers seat of WHE back to my friend. There might be another million miles to travel and I do not know the map, my friend does.
To WHE’s new volunteer from Leigh: “Thanks for the public smack to the back of my head. Only a true friend could be capable of that.”
If you want to follow along… click in order and read. A new article coming tomorrow.
I came into wild horse advocacy without being a “wild horse centric” person. I had worked horse slaughter issues for quite a while. But wild horses literally grabbed me one day in a feedlot through the eyes of an old mustang that the kill buyer would not let me purchase for a thousand bucks because he had to make weight on his shipment. I simply set off to find that story.
When I physically arrived in Nevada, the heart of wild horse country, I fell into the culture of advocacy. My frustrations were too many to list here. But ultimately those frustrations became the driving force for the creation and work of this organization.
The words “Wild Horse Annie” became synonymous with the “clique factor” in advocacy to me. A woman wearing what I can only refer to as a “tu tu” and fashionable, not functional, “cowboy” boots spoke about making an “Annie movie” at a rally and I watched advocates swoon. People would throw the name around saying this or that organization carried on her work. I was told I needed to read about her.
With everything I saw in advocacy I felt if everyone was carrying on her work, yet things were so dang bad for the horses, what could possibly be gained from reading about her? I included a few things about her on the website and paid tribute to the pioneer, but I never looked to see who she was.
Categories: Wild Horse Education