Welfare Cowboy


A group of horse people in Colorado led by a rancher and veterinarian, have developed what is likely to be a controversial solution to the issue of feral, wild and \”excess\” horses in the United States. The concept behind Welfare Cowboy has a simple premise: use the excess horses of the continent to feed the poor and hungry of the world.


Welfare Cowboy is challenging the Free-Roaming Wild Horse & Burro Act 1971 (WHBA) claim of \”wild,\” which calls for the preservation of wild horses.

As printed on the Welfare Cowboy blog:

“Having firsthand experience with having to accommodate excessive feral horses, Charles W. Sylvester initiated \”Welfare Cowboy\” on December 15, 2010.
“Mr. Sylvester took a bigger view of the matter, thinking there should be a better way to help the horses, help the people, and spread the base of benefits. So in continuing his passion of helping those in need, Chuck thought this would be a beautiful way for feral horses to serve more than the handful of people who just “looked at them;” his idea would provide essential protein and feed starving families worldwide.
“He also figured this would save a huge part of the economic base of the many states that now house feral horses.
1) Welfare Cowboy would help BLM gather, then harvest and process (into hamburger or canned) the excess feral horses.
2) The canned hamburger could then be shipped to hungry children in need of protein, and starving people in areas of crisis such as Haiti, Japan and more.

3) Welfare Cowboy would also take donations of domestic horses and wild game.”


It will be interesting to see how this develops. In the meantime, thoughts?


14 thoughts on “Welfare Cowboy”

  1. Well that is definitely an idea but I don’t really think this is the solution to solving world hunger. Most of these people aren’t used to eating meat. I also it is going to cost money to round up, process and ship this meat. Not to mention the issue of keeping the meat from being spoiling while being distributed.

  2. I’m really torn on this question. I hate the idea of horses being slaughtered. But I also loathe the idea that people are starving worldwide when a viable source of food is going underutilized.

    Additionally, I’d like to know more about the benefit to the horses (I admit I’m ignorant on the issue). Would thinning the herds benefit the feral horse population overall?

    Finally, I am willing to consider how the feral horses are impacting ranchers. I am not necessarily willing to protect feral horses at the expense of ranching businesses and families.

    It’s a complex issue that I fear may be decided on emotional rather than practical considerations.

  3. Hm….lots going on here including “Chuck” (seriously?!) offering to process the meat. Would he do this for free? Doubtful. Its not cheap. Its an interesting way to turn around the unsavoury perception of the highly profitable slaughter industry. Sounds like ‘spin’ to me.

  4. In Canada, we have the same problem with Elk, our wildlife thought it would be good idea to ship them to neighboring countys like saddle hills for instance. We now have well over 500 hundred or more, that every winter get into our winter supply of hay. Once again our wildlife thought it would be a good idea to ship 2 breeding pairs of cougar to thin out the elk population, wrong again. Now once an elk goes through your stack nothing else will eat it, because of the elk smell. I like your idea of using the elk to feed the hungry, we have a over abundance of them.

  5. This could be a good concept. Possibly it would eliminate the problem that we have getting rid of our unwanted horses. They could help feed people, it bothers me that wild horses would be rounded up to to killed for food, when there are a lot of unwanted domestic horses that could be used. It is becoming a great problem in what to do with our hurt, old, animals. I prefer to put my own animals down as humanly as possible and bury them. But just go to an auction mart during a horse sale…. it is apparent that we have a problem and this solution may help to take the pressure off the industry.

  6. Good luck leaving politicians to decide and vote on this one…..can’t see it happening…too contraversial and a decision may affect their vote popularity…could work but politicians make poor decisions and don’t think or care about the consequences because know they will most likely be done their term before people see the long-term affects of their decisions.

  7. Greg Paranich

    Using horses as a protein source is not new. This movement is moving back to the previous horse slaughter industry that facilitated this option. I have no problem with this, as it is a necessity in managing excess livestock. Therein lies the debate. Are these horses livestock or companions? Other cultures have no problem buying and consuming horse meat, so the market exists. A nobel direction to provide hungry populations with protien, and this could be done with the support of any who wish to move it in that direction. Is there the political will to reinstate this industry in a credible and responsible manner?

  8. I so agree with using excess horses (livestock or companions) to feed the hungry. I was in a position a few years ago to have excess horses with no where to sell them. I so would have sold my horses for meat if given the opportunity. I was breeding for show quality livestock so my breeding program was in fact breeding very large quarter horses with excellent confirmation. So looking at the diagram of the horse sectioned for meat I was supplying a very large quantity of quality meat with no where to sell it. So in reply to this issue, I believe it is a very good idea and should go forward.

  9. Are you kidding me?!! Everyone looks to equine overpopulation but what about human overpopulation. There are too many people already on this planet. Should we look to eating them too?

  10. The economics of this aims to create a business for Mr. Sylvester, mixing a seemingly philanthropic effort–who doesn’t want to do good and feed the hungry of the world? and getting rid of a ‘problem.’ Many nations seem to have feral and indigenous animals that can’t be controlled, from camels to kangaroos to rabbits, rats, squirrels, gophers. Sylvester’s solution is simplistic; he’s flying a trial balloon.

    Yes, there is a crises. It’s the distribution of food at reasonable prices. The increasing number of BML horses is another problem. Should the two be part of a single solution?

    Considering feral horses as harvestable will strip them of any protection, and possibly create a ‘gold rush’ scenario. Maybe horses should be bred for slaughter, rather than dumped at slaughter houses as a way of disposal. Get rid of the looks, the intelligence, the ability to perform, the longevity–then we might have an animal we may want to eat rather than admire. But, then look at what we’ve done to other wild animals when we domesticated them for food and how we’ve treated them. Not really great moments for humanity.

  11. The cost of catching, slaughter ( or the more politically correct term, harvesting), processing and shipping doesn’t seem to be the best solution to the overpopulation of humans or horses. It sounds more like the pro slaughter group finding another argument for their cause. As soon as the starving kid card is played,people want to act. There have always been starving people, the solution is more complicated than killing horses. What next, dogs and cats?, millions of them are unwanted and killed each year. ( I am not serious)
    I wasn’t aware Japan had an issue with starving children.

  12. Yes. I agree with the idea totally and why not? I have ate horse meat before and it is just a palatable as beef and more so than wild game. We are missing out on a wonderful food product, just because we have some emotional connections with horses.

  13. If the main reason we need to slaughter these animals is because of their excess and world hunger, why not kill stray dogs and cats? There are just as much if now more of them then horses. It’s because we consider them “pets”, but the majority of horses are “pets” too. So while you are handing over your horses, why not hand over your dogs and cats too?

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