Saturday, September 16, 2006

Bo Derek and Willie Nelson, Horses of a Different Color

That lunatic fringe that we call the House of Representatives just passed a bill that prevents ‘horse slaughter.’ 263 to 146 they bravely put their ‘aye’ votes out there for horses. Darfur, Lebanon, Afghanistan and Iraq are slaughter-houses of a kind they seem unable to handle.

Bo Derek is the lady who defined ’10,’ in a movie of the same name decades ago. Willie Nelson has defined whole landslides of things but ‘10’ wasn’t among them. Yeah, she's kind of a palomino and Willie's a grizzled old work horse.
I have great respect for Willie, have seen him numerous times in concert and respect his uphill battles as well, from Kinky Friedman to FarmAid.
But he’s wrong about horse slaughter and so is Bo.
Which didn’t stop that lunatic fringe that we call the House of Representatives from passing a bill that prevents ‘horse slaughter.’ 263 to 146 they bravely put their ‘aye’ votes out there for horses. Darfur, Lebanon, Afghanistan and Iraq are slaughter-houses of a kind they seem unable to handle.
I know, the comparison is apples and oranges. But they are relevant all the same as an acknowledgement of the mindlessness of Congressional priorities.
Bugsbunny4 One of the many interesting things about America is the way we humanize those portions of the natural world we find ‘cute’ or that are holdovers from the misty-eyed days of youth. Bugs Bunny is a great cartoon character and we don’t eat much rabbit, nor do we slay the excess deer that terrorize our close-in neighborhoods because of the ‘Bambi’ factor.
In Europe, where I am often to be found, horse is found in the fine restaurants and the butcher shops, along with rabbit, venison, wild boar and elk. Europeans value and love horses and horse-riding as in America, but they’re less flinchy about what they eat. And horse (almost entirely delegated to dog food in America) is highly valued on the plate.
There was an almost frenzied effort in the House to get a picture with Bo Derek and the rhetoric flowed at a 10 as well for the faded star who watched from the balcony.
'It is one of the most inhumane, brutal, shady practices going on in the U.S. today,'' said John Sweeney (R-NY), a sponsor of the ban. Sweeney opined that the slaughter of horses is different from the slaughter of cattle and chickens because horses, such as Mr. Ed, Secretariat and Silver, are American icons.
Not to be out-Republicaned, John Spratt (D-SC) pontificated, ''They're as close to human as any animal you can get.'' 
Christopher Shays (R-CT), ''The way a society treats its animals, particularly horses, speaks to the core values and morals of its citizens.''
Sweeney, who won’t lift a finger to alleviate the suffering of illegal immigrants dying in the Arizona deserts ought to redefine inhumane, brutal and shady. Spratt has obviously never spent much time around horses and Shays could make some useful comparisons to those deserted in the desert as well. At any rate, the cumulative palaver of these nitwits doesn’t rate 10 out of 100, much less a Bo 10, but she applauded and they beamed.
Horsevet Lining up those for and against, we find both the American Veterinary Medical Association and the American Association of Equine Practitioners on the side of horse slaughter. It’s not likely you could find a group more uniquely focused on the welfare of horses. Nor a group who sees on a daily basis the difficulty attendant to ‘no place to go’ for owners of animals that, for whatever reason, can no longer care for their horse. Standing with these veterinarian groups is the American Quarter Horse Association.
Standing with Bo and Willie, National Thoroughbred Racing Association as well as the Humane Society of the United States.
I happen to know something about racehorses that will not run (fast enough), having bought a number of them over the years for riding or showing. Struggling through lower and lower level claiming races, these young thoroughbreds (by the time they become available) are usually subject to all kinds of leg injuries. Training-wise, they know how to do one thing and one thing only—go like hell and turn left.
Barbarobreakdown_2 They are, for those who have the time and interest, each of them a years-long project of infinite patience. Unfortunately, most horse-dealers have neither time, nor any interest other than economic. Thus these creatures are likely to be found on drugs in various ‘riding schools,’ or virtually abandoned in backyard stables, where their lives are far from idyllic. No wonder the Racing Association wants no public reminder of horse slaughter. They depend upon the public image of horses ‘free as the wind’ while offloading their also-rans to anyone with $2,500 and a trailer.
What do Bo and Willie have in mind as an alternative?
Willienelson There are somewhere between 22 and 25 million horses in the United States. Even if they all lived out their full lives, a million a year are dying. Probably twice that.
The three slaughter-houses noted in all the frenzied rhetoric, account for 88,000 horses slaughtered for human consumption last year. Another 900,000+ were done away with elsewhere or dragged off dead, at the end of a chain to become dog-food.
Those who liken the ‘building of America’ to the horse, fail to give much credit to the ox and mule, each of which contributed more to America’s early centuries. Draft horses being too expensive and carriage or riding-horses the choice of the wealthy, it fell to oxen and mules to do the work.
In any event, the cry against horse slaughter is misplaced. That call, united for all animals, should be for humane and regulated slaughter. That will not be accomplished by an overwrought pleading among horse-lovers for a halt to the necessary slaughter of their singled-out species.
Indeed, they may well set back the conditions under which tens of millions of animals each year are slaughtered, without sufficient moral or ethical standards, in the United States.
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Other writers and media on the issue: