Listen to the mind of:
Jon Katz, Bedlam Farm
In recent years, and especially in recent months, I've become increasingly conscious of what can only be described as a cultural war on animals in our country. Animal rights organizations across the country are now pursuing a political and social agenda that would, in effect, drive almost all domesticated
animals who are not pets out of populated societies, many farms, pet stories, private homes, markets, zoos, public spaces, suburbs and cities. The conflict between people who have pets and people who have animals has grown into an escalating conflict of values that will determine the fate of animals in society.
The broad, well-financed and increasingly hostile coalition of well-organized and well-funded groups calling themselves animal rights groups believe – it is the central tenet in their ideology - that animals are abused on a vast scale in America, and that the people who work and live with them are abusers. People who had done nothing wrong find themselves accused of criminal and unfeeling behavior.
From the carriage horses to pony rides, to breeders, farmers, researchers, people who raise goats and rabbits for cheese or meat to the animals used in Hollywood movies, these groups have organized on a broad front to remove animals from public interactions with people and to discourage businesses and institutions from working with them. They have drawn government into the most private areas of people's lives with animals with a growing number of regulations, laws and ordinances.
Animal lovers know what happens to large animals who do not have work to do with people. They perish. And people never get to know or see them. In a horrible moral inversion, this new notion of saving animals is drive them from the earth, and from our lives. We are presumed too evil to own or live with them, we cannot be trusted to care for them.
It has suddenly become a fearful thing for many people to own an animal, to work with one, to bring animals to the public, or live with them in private. From movie producers to farmer's markets to carriage horse drivers to rabbit keepers, it has suddenly become troubling, even dangerous to own an animal. People who have broken no laws are subject to repeated and relentless attack for things no one in human history has ever believed to be wrong. It has become easier for so many people to simply avoid the new issues of owning an animal, and countless animals have paid for this with their lives.
The carriage trade owners and drivers – mostly comprised of immigrant families who have worked and lived with animals for generations, even centuries - suddenly are finding their work controversial, they are relentlessly and without evidence accused of cruel and abusive and illegal behavior and are the objects of insults, protests, petitions and campaigns that would put them out of business and destroy their way of life. And always – always – the goal is to remove animals from our sight and consciousness. The carriage horses are only one piece in this emerging conflict. This is the real conflict, the war on animals, the campaign to take them away. They will never return, they never have.
This war is just getting underway, the carriage horse conflict one of the epic first battles, because it is in New York City, the largest concentration of media on earth, where everyone in the world can see it and hear about it. The battle is thus joined. For the animal world, it is the Battle Of Bull Run, the first epic conflict of the American Civil War, the first time Americans understood the nature of the conflict they found themselves in. The horses are at the epicenter, the symbols and victims and perhaps, the first casualties. The Battle Of The New York Carriage Horses.
In this conflict, there are many things at stake. At its heart, the war on animals is over two profoundly different view of the role and nature of animals:
The animal rights organizations see animals primarily in terms of abuse, they are piteous and dependent creatures in this view, too fragile and precious to work with people or live animals, they are safe only as pets in carefully regulated conditions or in no-kill animals shelters, rescue preserves and the farms and properties of the wealthy. Under this view, most large domesticated animals will disappear. In this view, we are superior not only to animals but the people who who own, sell, live and work with them. Humans are generally reviled, even despised, it is a fixture of every single animal rights website I have seen.
The traditional view of most people who love, live with and work with animals is radically different. Animals are seen as partners, not wards, they live and work among us, they share the risks and travails of life in the world. They do not live no-kill lives any more than we do, they sometimes are injured, get ill and die, just as we do. Work is not cruel for them, it often means survival, and we need to find ways to keep animals in our lives, not remove them from our lives. There are abusers for sure, but I have met and interviewed and lived among countless animal lovers, there is more often much love in them. There are easier things to do in life than live with animals, although few as rewarding.