Saturday, October 10, 2009
What comes to your mind when you hear the words "animal cruelty"?
Dogs shrunk down to the bone with hunger, perhaps, or left chained and uncared for in backyards by irresponsible people? Cats with tails burned off by some evil kid? Or, if you read this blog and other animal issues pages, perhaps the cruel treatment of animals raised for food in factory farms?
These are the most obvious instances of animal cruelty and it doesn't take much understanding nor vision to recognize them as such. It's the sort of stuff most of us would shrink away from in pain and anger and disgust.
But what if I told you that each day of your life you accept animal cruelty-- even perpetrate it-- without blinking an eye?
During our road trip this past week, one of our stops was in beautiful Charleston, the grand and historic South Carolinian city of beautiful beaches and awe-inspiring mansions. But in this city where more than once you are reminded about the shameful past of slavery, I saw slavery well and alive, although of another kind. All around us, on the streets, were carriage tours: in other words, a horse dragging a carriage filled with as many as 17 people (yes, I counted them).
The horses themselves look dazed and tired, dragging their heavy cargo of merry tourists, many of who seriously needed to go on cholesterol-free vegan diets. Blinkers on, eyes forward, feet click-clacking with the thick metal "shoes" nailed into their hooves.
Charleston, of course, is not the only place with these carriage tours. They are all around the world and in this country, including in New York City where they continue despite serious concerns raised by animal activists. The horses plod on through their meaningless lives, little more than slaves to the people who own them, irrespective of the weather and often their health. And even assuming, for an instant, that their owners always treat them well, ask yourself this: is this any life for a living, breathing, glorious animal who would rather be free to run, the wind blowing in its mane? Free to nuzzle another horse? If a horse had a wish, what do you think it would want? Freedom or a life of trapped labor?
To me, it's not so much those who make a livelihood from enslaving these animals that are at fault-- they are making a living. It is the people who go on these rides, considering them "romantic" or "beautiful," who confound me. Horses are among the most abused animals around us, and often we don't even see what we do to them as abuse. How sad is that? Besides the carriage rides they are raced for entertainment (in my home state Maryland the politicians on either side of the aisle are always making appeals to save the horse-racing industry as if it were a good thing), trained for dumb contests and sports, and butchered for their meat.
But think about it, because it is high time each one of us did. Cruelty is cruelty, no matter how well we dress it up. And do you really want to be part of that?