Yesterday a story appeared on academic news site The Conversation about cannibal brumbies. Well, that was the attention-grabbing headline, though only the opening paragraphs were about how the feral horses of Dead Horse Gap are so starved that they are eating partially digested food from the intestinal tracts of their fallen comrades.* The rest of the article went on to cover now-familiar terrain around the increasing population of wild horses in the High Country, and the environmental threats they pose, though the authors – both ecologists based at ANU – took a slightly different approach by emphasising that culling would prevent future generations of horses from having to suffer and starve.
The authors clearly support the re-introduction of aerial culling, with Don Driscoll stating that “Aerial culling is a win-win for animal ethics and for the environment.”  The figures produced by the authors, calculated using a ten-year projection and based on current population numbers, present a stark future for wild horses without aerial culling.
This alternative perspective, which, while supporting culling, also clearly prioritises the welfare of the horses, generated some interesting discussion in the comments section. Given the academic nature and readership of the site, there were only a few comments around the significance of the brumbies to Australia’s national character that usually appear time and time again in such discussions, while other issues raised included what would drive a horse to cannibalism, whether or not what these horses were doing could actually be classified as cannibalism, and what constitutes ‘native’ flora and fauna.
It will be interesting to see if culling from an animal welfare perspective, rather than an environmental management one, will make the prospect more acceptable to brumby advocates.
Meanwhile, I anticipate a cannibal horse movie, in the same vein as Black Sheep, coming to a cinema screen soon!
* At this point a four-minute video was embedded into the article, whereby the authors recount for the camera, and via background photographs, their ‘grim discovery’ in the snow. I’m not sure if it was deliberately ironic, but the clip’s title and credits are in red ‘Chiller’ font, and the suspenseful violin soundtrack were both quite amusing
 Don Driscoll, comment made in reply to ‘Massey Farms’ https://theconversation.com/the-grim-story-of-the-snowy-mountains-cannibal-horses-31691#comment_479445