KBR Wild Horse and Burro News

Tools for effective horse advocacy

  The Credibility Game
A personal Commentary: September 28, 2006
The author with his mustang, Corey, at the Nevada State Capitol.
I'm a wild horse advocate. I'm proud of that. We live in an adversarial society where people with similar interests group together to achieve their goals and are challenged by those with opposing interests. In our form of society the final determinations of public policy are supposed to be based on majority vote, presentation of the best factual arguments, or in the most extreme cases, judges or juries deciding what is true after hearing arguments from both sides. It's not a very good system but it's a whole lot better than the next best system.

I and my kind advocate to manage public lands in the public's interest, to preserve those lands for future generations, that exploiting our natural resources is sometimes necessary but is a serious business, and that our public lands aren't some cash cow for an overspending Congress or President to sell off when they've run amok with the taxpayer's checkbook. We also look upon our wild horses, something uniquely western and magnificent, as real living symbols of our western heritage, something truly American, and something deserving to be protected in sustainable numbers.

Trailing behind virtually any advocacy camp are extremists and nut cases. In the most extreme instances they use guns and bombs. However in most cases they insist on forcing their babble into the debate, occasionally derailing productive dialogue and bringing discredit and disdain upon our coalition of advocates. More than once some of us have attended a meeting with range managers hoping to get something specific resolved only to have the productive climate dissolve when one or two fools insisted upon babbling on about pure nonsense. Productive dialogue gave way to contradiction with the time being used by someone making unsubstantiated allegations and the target having to explain what really occurred and how the facts could be verified.

My experience yesterday was so full of wild claims and conspiracy paranoia that I just had to post these things while they were fresh so folks could see the cancer growing within our own camp. The alleged "facts" are posted in red, with my responses in green.

  • The fires in Elko County are something BLM did to take all the horses off the range. (I'm not sure but I think the allegation was that BLM didn't bother to put the fires out in order to burn out the wild horses.)

    You can't lose nearly 1,500 square miles of range without dislocating animals and nobody is going to intentionally let a complex of fires get that large.

  • BLM is slaughtering horses. They send secret shipments out at the middle of the night - of horses they think are too old to adopt - to a slaughterhouse in the midwest.

    The horses are going to Paul's Valley, OK. A simple call to the state Livestock Identification Office in Elko will reveal how the brand certificates were issued. The only operating horse slaughter plants are in DeKalb, IL, Kaufmann, TX and Dallas, TX, and they have to report any animals that show up with US Govt. freezemarks.

  • BLM doesn't care about adopting horses. They haven't had an adoption in the east for three years.

    That's funny. Some of the wild horse advocates have volunteered at some of these nonexistent adoptions and all you have to do is click on the BLM web site to see their adoption schedule.

    (Rebuttal) But my friend Mark is with AMBA and he knows what's going on.

    (My counter-rebuttal) This must be going on in a parallel universe then.

  • There were some estray horses in my neighborhood and the BLM came and rounded them up and sold them for slaughter.

    The BLM doesn't pick up estrays. The law makes estrays the responsibility of the state or counties. The state turns them over to non-profit horse groups to adopt out. (Point of clarification: Loose horses traceable to any legal owner that are caught an impounded have to be claimed and "impound fees" paid the same as with a loose dog. If the owner does not claim his/her animal, it can be sold, oftentimes at a livestock sale, by the state or county agency that impounded the animal.)

The exchange got even weirder and, as usual, I was accused of not agreeing with these bizarre ravings because I'm a shill for BLM. Why? Because if I lie for them I'll get a big training contract.

But I've heard stranger tales, enough to start an Urban Legends web site, and the scary part is these people really believe this stuff.

One night a lady bent my ear for an hour raving that she knew for a fact that there was a secret herd of real, indigenous wild horses that BLM was hiding in the Grand Canyon.

I've had people insist that BLM operated a secret slaughter plant. (Must be for the school lunch program, I guess.)

The BLM is secretly shipping horses to Mexico.

95% of the horses BLM adopts out get sold to slaughter.

BLM just auctioned off 1,200 horses to the French to be used for food.

And my all time favorite...

You know BLM has to slaughter the older horses because after they're three or four years old, they can't get the wildness out of them. (Don't tell the lady in Oregon who just saddle started a 17 year old Sale Authority horse.)

- - -

The scary part is that these people will ignore tangible facts right there in front of them in favor of hearsay or their own preconceived notions. They really believe this stuff. Sometimes I feel like Hank Morgan in Mark Twain's A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court.

The sad part is that folks who don't know anything about wild horses will sometimes believe this stuff, urban legends get started, and the rational people wild horse advocacy get dismissed because of the lunatic fringe who will dump their fantasies on anyone and everyone who will listen. I also worry about people who become interested in wild horse issues, get fed unsubstianted nonsense only to discover they've been had, then wind up distrusting the credibility of all wild horse advocates instead of joining with us.

There is a purpose to this feature and it is this.

We all have to be very careful about what we advocate and what we post. Our arguments have to be clearly based on facts and reality. Those parties of interest on the other side of the wild horse debate love to grab hold of a weak or unsubstantiated argument and characterize the person presenting the argument as another "Save the Horsey" nut.

See, I believe that in most cases our arguments are based on facts, therefore the facts are on our side. When that is the case our opponents' most successful strategy is often to steer the discussion away from facts and onto anything else that presents an opportunity. We need to not provide our opponents with any opportunities to depart from factual debate.

Please be careful what you circulate over the internet. We really do need to stick to circulating facts. Once erroneous information gets out we can't take it back, and there is always the possibility that those in the other camp will use it against us, just like we use their off-the-wall allegations against them.

It's a free country and folks can say what they like so long as it isn't slanderous or libelous, but we don't have to give ridiculous notions any credibility and hurt our own efforts in the process.

Thanks for reading this.

Willis Lamm

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