as fast as you canâ€¦
Its the chance of a lifetime
In a lifetime of chance
And its high time you joined
In the danceâ€¦"
- Dan Fogelberg, "Run for the Roses"
If this hugely popular song by the late Dan Fogelberg has no power to at least put a lump in your throat, kf not outright weep buckets of painful tearsâ€”you are less than human.
Equine Pain and the Logic of Emotion
A problem with the issues of both equine slaughter and cruelty is that those who are proponents of both concepts ignore the huge factor of emotional connection. We're bombarded by the cattle growers and other pro-equicide representatives, and those who defend horse abusers, by the argument that weâ€”the horse lovers of the worldâ€”base our campaigns solely on emotion. And that emotion has no place in the administration of the law.
But I posit that, if the law isn't subject to the dictates of raw emotionâ€”there'd be no laws preventing any sort of cruelty or murder. Feel like offing your sister? Sure, no one will be effected by it. Torturing your neighbor's child? Have at, if it'll make you feel better.
Why is it that we have laws in place that protect humans and domestic animals, but not large companion animals? I realized that this is a valid question only this past week, when I attended the Albany Law School Saratoga Institute on Equine Racing and Gaming, and heard the very rational, very logical arguments of Chris Wittstruck, Esq.
Wittstruck punctuated his talk on Equine Cruelty with a powerful PowerPoint presentation, one which very logically and methodically pointed out a glitch in the lawâ€”an inconsistency which we must change, if we are to progress as a humane and compassionate society. The problem with the lawâ€”which we must all work together to change, according to Wittstruck's wisdom (based on a deeply-rooted knowledge of the law)â€”is that, while laws are in place which make it illegal to torture or kill a domesic animalâ€”no such laws exist that provide for the punishment beyond a misdemeanor for those who choose to torture or kill equines.
I didn't realize this inconsistency until I heard Wittstruck speakâ€”but as his talk and presentation unfolded, my heart leapt as I saw how the law can be used to bring about change.
And the cattle industry should shudder in their Tony Lama cowboy boots. Chris Wittstruck is on to youâ€”and now, so are we.
Slippery Slopes are Non-Arguments
You see, the cattle industry's argument is a slippery slopeâ€”that, if horse slaughter is outlawed permanently in the United Statesâ€”next, we're coming for the cows. And after the cows, look out, pork and chicken industries. We pro-equine lifers have it in for you. Somehow, those who seek to save equine lives are the one painted by these Wyoming Willies as being The Bad Guys.
But as we know:
a) a slippery slope argument holds no water, as that sort of argumentation is invalid on its face; and
b) cattle ranchers don't give a damn about pig and chicken farmersâ€”they want to institute equine slaughter as a national pasttime, in order to actually raise horses for the express purpose of slaughtering them for meat. Watch for the ads about horse meat being low in protein and "better for you" than beef. Aaron Copland is rolling over in his grave.
Trigger: the Other Red Meat
The ag lobbyists are paid obscene amounts of money to drink Courvoisier on Capitol Hill with legislators, fueling their ignorance by yet-more ignorance and lies. The cattlemen don't give a tiny rat's patootie about the pigs and chickens in their argumentâ€”they care only about saving their lifestyles by integrating horses into their industry, an industry that's been flagging for several years as Americans have become more health-conscious.
The anti-equine slaughter movement has made some great strides in just the last few daysâ€”but every day that ticks by gives the ranchers more time to build their arguments and court Congress.
To End Slaughter, We Must go Back.
If we want to stop horse slaughter in the United Statesâ€”or the transportation of our equines to Canada and Mexico for the purpose of slitting their throats and bleeding them to a painful, cruel deathâ€”we must start farther back in the Cruelty Chain.
We must approach the lawmakers to convince them to make it a felony, not a misdemeanor, to abuse or neglect equines.
The fight against slaughter is the final step in ending the crueltyâ€”but it begins with the outlawing of willful cruelty, abuse and neglect of all equines.
Unfortunately, New York State has become the poster child for equine abuse: an angry man in Hoosick, New Yorkâ€”who stabbed a horse to deathâ€”and the infamous Thoroughbred breeder, Ernie Paragallo, who let scores of his horses wither and die on the vineâ€”have become headline news of late. The horse stabber supposedly was drunk or angry or bothâ€”so he chose to take out his rage on an animal with no thumbs to defend itself. He claims that he didn't know what he was doingâ€”don't they all take this defense? I propose that, somewhere around Stab Number 12, you realize that you've got horseblood all over your fingers. You start counting: "13," "14," "15"â€”all the way up to 22. Sometime before the horse was deadâ€”uh, yeah, he became aware that he was committing equicide.
And Paragalloâ€”well, he's been given entirely too much ink lately, press that he doesn't deserve. If he doesn't watch it, he'll be one of the pigs after which we horse defenders come, captive bolts in-hand.
If horse abusers, starvers and murderers are allowed to get away with it, a slap on the wrist and "time served" because their crime is a misdemeanor, and not a felonyâ€”they will keep doing it. People with rage issues aren't discouraged by being parole and community service. If you get off on the pain of a helpless animalâ€”you're a sociopath, period.
Humans are your next victims.
That's not my emotional pronouncement, that's a statement of fact, based on much psychological study.
So we must stop equine slaughter by ending the pain inflicted by the abusers, neglectors and torturers, first. We must make it Big-Time Illegal to kill or abuse a horseâ€”then we'll have someâ€”if you'll excuse the expressionâ€”meat to our argument. The felonization of equine abuse and murder by an individual is the building block upon which solid anti-slaughter laws can be created and enforced.
What Can We Do?
It's time, according to Chris Wittstruck, to contact our legislators and demand that the laws against equine cruelty be changed. Make it a felony to stab a horse or starve him. Put the criminals in prisonâ€”not the county lock-up. Let the boys at Dannemora have a go at them: I'm sure that someone who's done what the Hoosick Horse Hater and Paragallo have committed are ripe for the picking in a real prison.
The Law: Livestock vs. Companion Animals
Horses, according to the law, are livestockâ€”not companion animals.
And their status thus means that they can fall prey to the whims or twisted minds of those who have anger issues, as in the Hoosick incidentâ€”or the benignly neglectful actions of a pig like Paragallo.
And those of us who know horses know that, of course they are not livestockâ€”they are very much companion animals. Anyone who's everâ€”even onceâ€”looked a horse in the eye, and felt its soft breath on their hand or neckâ€”knows that there's a communication of companionship between our two species.
That horses are endued with an innate Wisdom, compassion and emotional ability that actually may be lacking in real liveestock animals.
Death and sex are a fact of life for those who grow up on a farm. At age four, I starting riding my cousin's Quarter Horses. At six, I learned how to milk a cow. At seven, I stuck a pig and was taught how to kill a chicken. We were poor: if we were going to eat, we ate the chickens, pigs and "boy cows."
At 13, I brought a bull's head into my school. The bull had been slaughtered, to create many meals for my family and me. My best friend, Karen, and I gleefully dragged around the bucket with that bull's head, grossing out the other girls and delighting Mr. Krein, our science teacher.
The Psychology of the Connection of Naming.
The difference between that bull and the chickens and pigs on Cousin Bill's farm and that of his horses whom I rode wasâ€”and this is so obvious, from a psychological/emotional/archetypal standpointâ€”that the horses had names. The cowsâ€”female bovines, whom I milkedâ€”had names. The dogs and cats on the farmâ€”had names. "Patches," "Bossie," "Elsie," "Sheila," "Coco"â€”affectionate monikers that identified the animals we don't eat from those we had to eat in order to live. The chickens, pigs and bulls were nameless. This may sound harsh, but for Bill it was a hard decision born of necessity.
In order to provide the food he needed to feed his family and extended family, Cousin Bill had to be able to differentiate between companion animals and livestock. With no formal education, living in very-rural Rensselaer County as a dairy farmer, Bill had to help his children (and cousin children) learn the difference between animals with whom we had emotional connection, and those that we required for survival.
Horses Have Namesâ€”Even Those Seemingly Wild.
We look into a horse's eye and see not only the soul of that beautiful creatureâ€”we see the origin of the Universe, itself. We bond with horses when they sniff us and breathe into our ears. We name our horsesâ€”Thoroughbreds, Quarter Horses, Arabians. Even the wild Mustangs who need Madeleine Pickens' compassionate concernâ€”have names in the mythological literature of our culture. Their names may not be created by a human brain, but they are spoken by the wind.
You absolutely cannot give a horse a formal Jockey Club-ordained name, and then a nicknameâ€”and then throw that horse under the proverbial bus. You cannot be in relationship with that animal and strike, stab, kick or otherwise abuse it.
America as a whole has a relationship with the wild Mustangs: our nation was forged on the backs of their ancestors. Their great-grandmothers and grandfathrs carried mail; pulled railroad ties and dragged wagonsful of settlers into theretofore unknown lands. They fought in battles side-by-side with those who created the United States and in battles to keep the Union whole.
If nothing elseâ€”we owe the descendants of these brave horses a tremendous debt of gratitude: protecting them from being shot from helicopters is the very least we can do.
If we want to extricate the word, equicide, from the lexicon, we must continue the struggle. But we must go back, past the killer-buyers, past New Holland. We must look at our individual communities and states and the laws that protect these animals who truly are companions.
We must work with our local and state legislators to make equine abuse, murder and torture by an individual a felony. Misdemeanors have no place in the legal system, but to say that stabbing or starving a horse to death is really of no consequence is the argument that sets the stage for slaughter. If horse owners or others are allowed to do as they will with their equinesâ€”even to the point of starving them to deathâ€”simply because they're considered to be livestock by government lawsâ€”we're going to see more incidents like Paragallo and Hoosick.
And that is absolutely unacceptable. To keep horses listed as livestock in the US legal books is to keep them in constant danger of abuse and death. And if local and state laws won't acknowledge them as companion animals, and protect them from one-on-one abuseâ€”why should the federal government act to rid America of slaughter?
This is not a slippery slope argument, this is the progression of law.
To encourage the immorality of these vicious people by virtue of the omission of laws to protect our American horses makes us just as culpable as those who commit the sin. One phone call from a registered voter, one emailâ€”can change the laws on abuse, which will lead o the acknowledgement of horses as eligible for full protection from slaughter or transportation for the purpose. If we can't take five minutes of our time to save those who comfort and love us unconditionally, whose loyalty knows no boundsâ€”we don't deserve the joy of their company.
And we definitely don't deserve to work or play in the so-called Sport of Kings. If you can't help the horses avoid abuse and then murder in a slaughterhouseâ€”get out of racing, and attach yourself to football.
Ernie Paragallo deserves a better night's sleep in Dannemora than we, if we don't take the time to Do the Right Thing.