Tuesday, January 20, 2015


Serious stuff, really.

Jonathan Katz at Bedlam Farm Journal has been carrying a pretty heavy load by being the point man on the controversy, almost entirely fabricated by those who know nothing about animals, over banning the Central Park carriage horses. (If animals needed psychologists, those horses would be happy; as Freud knew, love and work are the necessities for a sane life). In the last month, he lost two of his animals to old age and decrepitude. Only others who love animals (most Animal "Rights" people don't know or love them, as has been obvious in this debate) will understand his grief. But, I am happy to report, he continues to think.

First, from one of his recent essays, "A Simonless World" (links aren't working but you can find it on his blog) , a passage  where he paused in his sorrow to contemplate the peculiar attitude that the culture seems to be making about animals these days:

"Last week, five or six people came up to me at different times and told me about their dogs – this happens to me daily – and each one told me their dogs were abused. I always ask why they say that, and they give me reasons like this: the dog is afraid of moving lights, the dog is afraid of men with big sticks, the dog is shy around loud noises, the dog is afraid of trucks and buses.

 "There are so many reasons why dogs might behave that way – breeding, litter experience, issues with the mother, encounters with dogs and the outside world. Abuse is actually the least likely for most dogs.

"Something in the life of contemporary Americans calls them to need to see animals as abused and piteous and dependent creatures. I think it makes us feel valued, worthy, even superior to other people.  We are a fragmented, tense and disconnected people in many ways, animals give us something to feel better about. Abuse is real, it is a crime, but I sometimes think it seems that every dog in America was abused, and I am always drawn to wonder why it is that people need to take ordinary animal behavior and transform it into narratives of human cruelty and mistreatment... We no longer see them as partners, but as pathetic wards and helpless beings.  I don't think it is good for animals to view them through such a narrow prism."

The late philosopher and dog trainer (and poet) Vicki Hearne used to say that Animal Rights activists could only envision two roles for animals: cute and abused. In the intervening years I can see a second: dead. GRATEFUL dead, and I don't mean the band. There is a little philosophical movement lurking about that scares the crap out of me, that says with Jeremy Bentham and certain odd Buddhists that absence of suffering is paramount, that things like carnivory must be remedied, and if it isn't then everything from re- engineering carnivores' genomes to ending our species to ending life is justified. I do suspect they are a small group, but I hope they never get hold of a weaponized virus...

Again, my old post defending coursing dogs, or any dog with a job, might be worth a look. As is this surprisingly sympathetic portrait of coursing coyotes in Oklahoma from the NYT. Of course, people are trying to shut that down too, as they did the legal wolf hunt with hounds in Wisconsin. Look at the contrast the clever NYT writer made between the solicitous hunters, who like most of us sustain large vet bills every year, and the AR activist who claims we leave wounded dogs in the field to die (yeah, I know that is unbelievable...)

And a slight swerve: an essay by an anti --gunner who admits without condescension that there are enormous divisions between people of good will over guns, even in Sandy Hook families that lost members to that crazed shooter, and castigates the familiar anti- gun tropes that insist all Americans want gun control or, worse, that those of us who oppose it are ignorant, bigoted,  etc-- name your cliche, and see that ass Liam Neeson, who has probably made more money off at least the image of guns than I have. I do not agree with her, but I get the sense we could have a conversation...

Ancient coursing dog photo:


Anonymous said...

I enjoyed the link to your past coursing ban discussion--obviously before I had blundered into Querencia, or no doubt I'd have had plenty to peck out is response on THAT! Reminds me of the incredible(and frightening) knee-jerk ignorance, and seemingly passionate adherence to certain prejudices like the Pit Bull terrier witch hunt--just got through tilting windmills about THAT yet again over at the Psychology Today website, under Mark Derr's "The Wrong Dog" post,(they have a HUGE animal behavior section--although many of their psychology "experts" don't know squat about other critters, and I feel COMPELLED to try and educate them sometimes!). Though mostly futile, it IS good practice that helps one hone one's knowledge and technique to be able to "shout down" the antis that are trying to shout YOU down! I did some more research as a result(reading CAREFULLY--something the antis are NOT good at! Or just hope YOU are not good at!), and am ready to go on the next Pit Bull bash!.....L.B.

Anonymous said...

.....and the "abused dog" thing--I've encountered that a lot--it has become an entrenched and beloved notion amongst the general public, especially in this day and age when ONLY adopting a rescue dog is the ONLY politically correct way to acquire a dog anymore. I personally DO have quite a few rescued dogs in my eclectic pack--some WERE abused, no doubt(I actually know the real facts in those cases), others were just neglected and not properly socialized(although I suppose that might be considered a form of abuse), and others just genetically shy and more difficult to deal with. Another, similar, and TIRESOMELY incorrect(but most beloved) notion, is that ANY dog found in the woods(or equivalent wild area) is PART WOLF(even if it displays zero wolf characteristics)--and this more often than not in areas that haven't seen a wild breeding wolf population in centuries! And it is never(or rarely) labeled as a part coyote--which would be entirely more likely! Coyotes just aren't as romantic as wolves, of course! If you wish to learn new cuss words, just TRY and convince such people that their stray dog was not necessarily abused, OR part wolf, as I foolishly have attempted in the past......L.B.

Mark Lewis said...

I remember the NYT article on coyote hunting, and was surprised that it was as balanced as it was. You introduced me to the term "coursing", but our family has "run dogs" for coyotes and rabbits in SW OK for over fifty years. I now live a few hours away, but did manage to go out with the group - a large number teams, with two teams of dogs - over the holiday break. It is always amazing watching dogs do what they were bred to do.

While the sport is still going strong, the changing generations eat away at it a little each year. As lands change hands, the new land owners often have no prior association with the sport, and also no personal association with the individuals involved, and some request that dogs not be run on their property. We do abide by those requests, and try to be good stewards of both the sport and the land, but the resulting patchwork of properties makes it increasingly difficult to continue.