Monthly Archives: February 2012

You Are Paying for Atrocities Against Wild Horses. Private Companies Are Pocketing the Profit.

Out west, wild horses and burros live in packs, forming strong bonds with family and friends and doing all the photogenic things people expect of them: running like the wind, tossing their manes, resting their heads on each other’s necks, and generally looking majestic. I know this because I have met them up close.

It took a tiny little plane and a four-wheel drive journey over some very bumpy “roads” and past quite a few oil pumpjacks to find them, and right they were to hide — the federal government is out to get them.

Every year the Bureau of Land Management flies helicopters low over the horses, rounding thousands of them up in a terrifying ordeal that injures some horses, drives others off of cliffs to their deaths, and separates nearly all of them from their family and friends. The captured horses are sold for slaughter or kept in pens for the rest of their lives; a (comparatively) lucky few are adopted.

There is no rational explanation for this expensive operation. There is an irrational one, though: private ranchers want their cattle and sheep to graze on the public land the horses live on, and the government helps them do it, charging only pennies on the dollar for the privilege. Those privately-owned for-profit outfits that are sucking up the oil have a hand in this cookie jar too. So wild horses living on public land are terrorized, penned, and killed on the taxpayers’ dime to increase the profits of private companies.

What’s more, there is a very specific federal law meant to protect wild horses and burros. It’s called the Wild and Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act, and it says that for the most part, the government should leave these animals alone.

When I was a lawyer at The Animal Legal Defense Fund we went to court to stop the round-ups. A federal judge in Salt Lake City turned us down because, as humans, we weren’t the beneficiaries of the law and therefore didn’t have the right to try to enforce it. Needless to say, the horses aren’t allowed to enforce it either. It’s a well-intentioned law, but perhaps not so well thought out.

This mess has been going on for years. Yesterday Vickery Eckhoff published a thorough article on about the politics, the history, and the impact on the animals of government round-ups. I recommend reading it.


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Race and Weight: Is Self-Esteem Better for Your Health than Weight Loss?

Black women in the U.S. are happier with their appearance than white women even though they are fatter, according to an article in the Washington Post by Lonnae O’Neal Parker. The article suggests that because most glamorous female images in the media are of white women, the images have less of an impact on black women. For once blacks benefit from being excluded.

Also, cultural beauty standards differ, as the article notes; black women and men don’t seem to buy that “you can never be too thin.”

(Ironically, this may help African-Americans lose weight: for what it’s worth, the monitor at my gym that alternates in-house ads with health-related factoids reports that people with better body images have more success shedding pounds.)

Black women value their health highly, according to a survey by The Washington Post and the Kaiser Family Foundation (90% of black women consider a healthy lifestyle “very important,” compared to 78% of white women). How they have evaded our society’s current obsession with the link between fat and chronic disease I don’t know, but they have simultaneously evaded the corrosive low self-esteem that tends to plague white women — 67% of black women surveyed agree strongly that they see themselves as having high self-esteem, compared to 43% of white women.

High self-esteem correlates with good health, and low self-esteem with poor health, according to the MacArthur Foundation and others.

The data on whether it is better to be fat and confident or thin and insecure seems to be conflicting. Which would you rather be? Please pipe up by submitting a comment — and if you don’t mind, include your race & sex. Thanks!


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What Doesn’t Separate Us From Animals 2: Empathy, Cooperation, and More

If humans aren’t fundamentally different than animals, isn’t it wrong to treat them the way we do — like killing billions of them each year to eat?

Yet scientists continue to disprove speculation about the differences between us and other animals. This week a group of scientists at the American Association for the Advancement of Science conference discussed findings that whales and dolphins “are capable of advanced cognitive abilities (such as problem-solving, artificial ‘language’ comprehension, and complex social behavior), indicating that these cetaceans are far more intellectually and emotionally sophisticated than previously thought,” according to

Speakers on a panel at the conference “presented multiple examples of cetaceans acting with empathy, cooperation, and self awareness.” On that basis they supported granting whales and dolphins “basic rights to life, liberty and well-being.”

For more information on the movement to protect whales and dolphins, read the Declaration of Rights for Cetaceans.

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