Horse problem must be addressed

It is about time we are doing something about the horse problem. Not only do horse owners have a problem, we as taxpayers and absentee owners of horses on public lands have a problem. The Bureau of Land Management in 2011 spent $75.6 million on wild horse management and plans to spend $79.5 million in 2012, more than half of which will be used to maintain 37,000 horses that nobody seems to want.

At present there are believed to be 38,500 free-ranging horses on BLM land which is about 12,000 more than managers would like to see for good range health. If left unchecked wild horse populations double in four to five years.

Sending the unwanted horses to market would result in a savings of about $40 million and I would assume the BLM would receive a substantial return from the slaughter value of the horses.

This economic feature is only part of the equation. Horse meat is tasty and it is good for you. Horse meat is lean and has fewer calories because fat is not marbled between the muscle fibers. It can be used to replace other meats in virtually any meat recipe and cooks faster than most meats. Horse meat is unique in the fact that as a horse ages its meat becomes more tender.

During World War II, beef was rationed. If you went to a restaurant you were supposed to give the restaurant a beef coupon for the beef you received. Restaurant owners would serve horse meat with the customer knowing it, or they thought it was a "don't ask, don't tell" moment when coupons were not collected. According to a restaurant owner friend of my dad, this was a standard operating procedure in the Portland area. Horse meat markets came into existence during the war to satisfy the need for red meat and continued to operate until marbled beef became the meat of choice.

We must overcome the taboos we have about eating horse meat. Many farm kids have raised pet animals knowing they were going to be dinner some day. It might not be as hard to gain acceptance if we were to get testimonials from our World War II users explaining how tasty the meat was. Nutritionists could promote the healthful qualities of the meat, which might make our health-conscious families give horse meat a try. If they do, I know they would like it.

Carlisle Harrison

Hermiston, Ore.

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