Self Conscious, the J Eric Miller blog

Friday, March 04, 2005

High Horse

It is now again legal to capture and slaughter wild western horses. You thought they were gone, but they’re not.

(In this cruel natured world where extinction is the only possible salvation and mercy the only legitimate virtue.)

Largely in part to public reaction to The Misfits (see review), these wild horses were protected since 1971.

Before 1971, the bulk of wild horses captured, killed, and rendered were turned into pet food.

Now they will sold to French and Asian restaurants and food distributors.

If you want to thank somebody for this sudden turn in the fortune of the wild horses, consider Conrad Burns, Republican, of Montana, a senator who brings a spittoon to DC.

… I imagine it bothers you to think of horses being caught, slaughtered, and turned into meat.

I imagine that you are disgusted by the thought of somebody not just ingesting, but enjoying the well charcoaled or perhaps rare slab of muscle that made up the flank of a horse.

Probably you’re an American and you think of the horse as a symbol of freedom and the West. Perhaps you have even had a horse nuzzle you for a bite of apple. Maybe you’ve rubbed that place between its ears or felt the hardness of its jaw. Maybe when you were a child there were pictures of horses on your wall.

Who can’t love a horse, elegant as they are and with such sensitive eyes?

It disgusts you, both in the stomach and in the conscience, that someone would eat a horse.
The way it disgusts you that someone would eat a cat or a dog.

In your world, cats and dogs are pets.
In your world, these animals are meant to be nurtured, not eaten.
They are capable of loyalty, even love. You’ve seen it expressed.
It hurts your heart to think of the dog pound, those little cages, those injection deaths.

(Does it occur to you that any brained thing can express loyalty, even love? A porcupine. A rat. A pig.)

…In countries where dog and cat are eaten, a popular method of execution is hanging. This is thought to tenderize the meat.

(The outrage in this county over furs from overseas is not that about what they do to the minks, how many are cruelly raised and more cruelly killed to make a coat, it is that jesusgod sometimes cat fur is mixed in.

In your world, it’s not right to stick a baby cat in a cage. To let it grow a little. To analy electrocute it and strip its skin. In your world, it’s ok to do that with a mink. Or a fox. Or a beaver.)

…The horses will be rounded up by helicopter mostly.
That kind of terror.

It bothers you to imagine them wild eyed in the small corral. Thirsty and covered in sweat and stinking of adrenalin.

These slaughterhouse trips.
Those numbed slaughters.

Does it bother you?

A woman on the news voiced outrage over the capturing, auctioning, and deaths of these horses. She said that she can’t imagine how anybody could be so cruel as to kill “an animal”. She meant to add an adjective or two, maybe something like “such a noble” animal, but all that came out was that she couldn’t imagine that someone could kill an animal.

She was wearing leather gloves, a leather band around her hat.

…Your pigs and chickens and cows, they’re not fed or watered during their last seventy hours—that nutrient would be wasted. The bulk of them are not dead before the rendering begins. This means that when they’re legs are being sawed off, their skins peeled open, they are alive.

You don’t want to believe that. The evidence is indisputable. As PETA suggests, meet your meat.

(Did you know that eels mate for life?
That pigs are considered to be smarter than dogs, on whatever scale that intelligence is measured?
That the central nervous system of an earthworm is similar to your own?)

…People like Gandhi, like King, they understood that true empathy is boundless, that suffering links us all.

You’ve been taught not to think of it like that. In your world, it’s ok to kill a cow but not a horse. In some other world, it’s ok to kill a horse but not a cow. In some other world, all this killing is wrong.

Everything dies. Perhaps the dispute has less to do with than the manner of death, and the manner of life before that death. You think that cow you see in the field, that pig you sung about at Old MacDonald’s, you think that’s where you lunch comes from? That it just grazes and plays and one day they sneak up and give it a shot and it drops down into peace and is then turned into something you can eat?

You’ve seen them on the freeway, pigs or cows, in any weather, jammed into trucks, moving from some factory farm to some slaughterhouse. Where did you think they were going? You’ve seen their eyes peering out. You know what I’m talking about. You know what you ate for breakfast, for dinner. You ate fear. You ate pain.

That animal you ate, it’s already dead. The money you paid for it, that’s the money they’re going to pay for somebody to kill the next one.