by Pettus Read
Uncle Sid told me one time, "Boy, don't sell your mule to buy a plow." His country wisdom has been an important part of my upbringing and has kept me out of trouble on numerous occasions. Now I find myself reaching the age of being the one able to give out the common sense wisdom like Uncle Sid. The only problem is most folks younger than me don't know what in the world I'm talking about if I use his terminology. In the aforementioned statement from Uncle Sid, most would have to think twice about what it means. They've never had experience with a mule and the only plow they have come in contact with has a motor on it. They would probably understand what the old man meant in today's language if he had said, "Don't sell your laptop to buy new software." Same meaning, only different work modes performed at a different day and time.
The statement by Uncle Sid fits in real well today with a problem that continues to increase across this state and nation. Each day we see the number of unwanted equine continue to grow and the problem of what to do with them has spilled over into the rural countryside in a way that many folks would never believe could happen this day and time. Unwanted horses are being turned loose into the rural acreage of our state much like dogs and cats have been for years. If it continues, we are going to be caught in the same "Catch 22" that our western Plains states have seen for years with the over population of wild horses. This absurd and senseless abandonment of unwanted animals on private property belonging to our state's farmers, is the result of unknowing people who purchase horses without taking into consideration the care needed for the well-being of livestock of their size. Plus, with the current recession causing hardships on families who own these animals, the first place cuts are often made to help finances is in the area of the least needed recreation. Many times the fun of owning and maintaining the animals has also waned after time and the desire to exercise and feed the horse also decreases.
The real problem today is that there is no place for unwanted horses. The horse markets do not exist in most areas for individuals to sale their animals because who buys livestock that no one wants? Due to legislation in our nation's capital, which has been there for a while, if passed will prevent the operation of horse processing plants in this country, which for decades has been one of the major sources of removing unwanted horses from the equine statistical numbers in our country. None of the plants are currently in operation due to the U.S. Department of Agriculture not allowing inspectors to complete inspections to license plants while the Equine Cruelty Act is still pending.
There are those who say the plants are a cruel way for a horse to die and selling the animals, as a food product to other countries where horses are a commodity, is not something this country should be involved in. Horses as livestock have been used for this purpose for many years along with being a source for pet food and other products that we all use daily. When the words die and slaughter are used, anyone with a heart has to feel somewhat concerned, but I do wonder which is more cruel when you also have to use the words unfed, uncared for and neglected when applied to horses on five acre lots that are unwanted with no place for them to go.
Just last week, entertainer Willie Nelson spoke out against legislation being presented in our own state capital that would allow horse processing plants in our state and also regulate them to be humane in their operation. East Tennessee farmer and state Representative Frank Nicely presented the legislation to the House Ag Committee hoping to find a solution and to help the problem. I really appreciate his efforts to try to make this thing work. But, Nelson thinks we can use adoption and construct preserves in this country to take care of the unwanted horses. That does sound good, but I have to use some of Uncle Sid's common sense wisdom when it comes to wondering how well that will work. I live in the country on a farm located only 11 miles from a pet adoption agency and still have dogs "dropped off" at my place. The adoption animal shelters do a great job and I have received some of my pets from there, but we still have a problem with folks mistreating their pets and too many animals to go around for those who really want them. A dog or cat is a small animal, a horse is much larger and a whole lot more involved when it comes to their care.
By closing the processing plants, I feel we have sold the mule to buy a plow. Now, what do we do with all the plows that we have and no place to plow?