Friday, October 17, 2014

The New York Carriage Horses

Jon Katz is doing such a serious, informed, and fundamental service in documenting what may turn out to be the landmark Animal Rights case of our time* that anyone who breeds, trains, or otherwise is involved with all our ancient ways and "memes" of human- animal interaction should subscribe to Bedlam Farm Journal and get it in their box every morning (and there is a lot of beauty, humor, and poignancy as well, not just his continuing defense of the horses and their owners-- Jon's animals, his recovery from open- heart surgery, his photos, and more).

My own battles so far were helping the California coursers, and I think my best column helped (though meanwhile we lost an important fight in Albuquerque, our own back yard, on breeding dogs). Those interested in the coursing column, which I think contains enough material of more than local interest that I plan to recycle it in my dog book, can find it here.

But the most important public battle over us and our animals is going on now. One group of people has the whole of history, of human and domestic animal evolution, training, learning, adaptation, work, and even love on its side (though like many "animal people" or country folk they may not be able to articulate it like members of the chattering classes). The other side consists of a Marxist, uninformed, callous mayor (and I feel bad about insulting Marxists here-- photos of Trotsky and his dogs suggest that even Marxists usually know more about dogs than DiBlasio-- all right, he is Italian too, and I hang my head in shame); a billionaire real estate developer; and, because Manhattan is just MORE than other places, some of the most unhinged, hysterical, fanatical, and near- violent Animal Rightsers in the United States. They have lied outright; DiBlasio sounds positively Aspergian every time he opens his mouth (he told a child of one of the carriage drivers that his father was "immoral"). They seem to think that killing the horses would be better for them than letting them work; the mayor seems to think that a godawfully expensive electric vehicle would be a more "environmental" solution; can you see tourists, maybe a couple coming to the city for their honeymoon, stepping into a romantic scaled- up golfcart to drive through central Park?! As  somebody said (who? -- and Magdalenians please refrain from saying "Tom Kelly"!), only an educated fool could possibly believe something like that.

Against that, we have the thoughtful essays of Jon Katz, who has written a couple of them every week on the subject, full of old- style wisdom and kindness. Read him if you care about the Old Ways, as I suspect most of the readers here do. Here are a couple of thoughts from October 11 "What are People For?":

"In New York City, hundreds of people live in fear and uncertainty as the future of the carriage trade is suddenly in doubt because a millionaire real estate developer decided it is abuse for horses to work.The carriage drivers have been the victims of almost continuous and slanderous assault and cruel condemnation and abuse for years while the mayor who seeks to end their work and way of life refuses to even speak to them in the name of being humane to animals...

"Countless animals suffer every week in America as the movement that calls itself a protector of animal rights claims  that people are not fit to live with animals, care for them, or deserving of help in keeping them. Everywhere – in farmer's markets, on pony rides, in carriage horses, circuses, movie sets, agricultural schools, small farms, private homes – it is becoming too complex, controversial, expensive or complicated to own and keep and work with an animal, especially those that are not pets. Animals are disappearing everywhere, just as the carriage horses will disappear if they are banned from New York City...

"Is there dignity and compassion in losing one's livelihood, in being publicly and cruelly dehumanized. Is our goal to remove animals from the lives and consciousness of human beings?  The horses are awakening us to understand that there is much work to be done, those of us who love animals have abandoned them to the awful fate of having their fates decided by people who hate people. When we dehumanize people, we dehumanize ourselves, when we dehumanize ourselves, we cannot possible build a world that is humane to animals. Compassion is not selective, we don't get to choose who deserves it, we either offer it or we do not...

"Animals can only thrive in partnership with people, without animals people are broken and disconnected from their lives, their past and the world. We cannot be compassionate for animals as we become increasingly cruel to people.

"If you want to be happy," says the Dalai Lama, "practice compassion." Do we really wish for the unhappiest people in our world to decide the fate of animals?"

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