What shall we do with the horses

THE NEED TO MANAGE HORSE NUMBERS… Horses have a special place but can we allow their numbers in the wild to grow? Photo: Katelyn Morse

The brumby herds that roam freely in the Barmah Forest and in the Australian highlands have in many ways established themselves as an icon of regional Australia. Cultural ballads of the bush such as the Banjo Paterson poem, ‘The Man from Snowy River’ reinforcing the image.

The Victorian Government has recently won a court hearing in respect to capturing and removing the horses from the Australian Alps, a case contested by the Australian Brumby Alliance.

Local Member for Northern Victoria, Wendy Lovell moved a motion in the Upper House of State Parliament for “The State Government to cease its plan for the broad scale shooting of brumbies in Victorian national parks”.

To environmentalists however, they are feral pests. Goulburn Valley Environment Group (GVEG) has expressed regret at the action taken by Wendy Lovell.

“To block the proposed culling of feral horses in Victorian National Parks is a terrible example of sentiment over science,” said GVEG president, John Pettigrew. “Just when it seemed as if science was being respected again for its critical role in preventing widespread community infection from the COVID-19 pandemic, now we watch our local member and other members of parliament ignoring the science about feral horses and their impacts. They should be seen for what they are, introduced feral herbivores which are categorised by State and Federal Government as pest animals, like rabbits, goats and pigs.”

Horses have a special place in the lives of many people, yet it seems we have too many. Even the thoroughbred industry faces criticism for the number of horses that are being sent to slaughter to be served in foreign kitchens instead of being rehomed.

It is clear from any number of surveys conducted by Parks Victoria, the forest and alpine areas are under assault from too many imported feral animals.

While the horses are a part of our more recent culture, they are not natural part of the Australian wilderness and both aspects need to be managed, the question is, how?