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February 21, 2008

They shoot horses in Australia. Wild horses. More than 10,000 are expected to be gunned down in the state of Queensland in the next three years, according to newspaper reports. Known as brumbies, the animals are descended from horses shipped over from England in the late 1700s that got loose and thrived—and now make up the largest wild equine population in the world. Not being native to Australia, they’re putting a strain on the ecosystem Down Under. Worse yet, the habitat they’re degrading is national parkland.

I get that overpopulation is a problem and that parkland needs to be protected. But isn’t it glaringly obvious that the brumbies are being scapegoated? After all, humans forced migration on their ancestors. And humans run the national park system, which keeps buying up property populated by the horses but lacks the means to sensibly manage their numbers. Even environmentalists who condone the killing, arguing that we’re out of time for alternatives such as adoption programs (e.g., Save the Brumbies, savethebrumbies.com) to make any significant difference, are falling into the trap of ad hoc thinking. Isn’t it that kind of expediency that got us into this mess in the first place?

In the irresponsible, blame-the-victim game we resort to playing—often with animals as the victims—we all end up as losers.