Saturday, October 28, 2017

Horses know human cruelty all too well

The first time we visited San Francisco, I drove the nearly 50-mile route around the city, and that was fine . . . until we suddenly found ourselves perched at the top of a hill such as I had never driven down before (and rarely even looked down!). Way, way steep.  Frightening.  With  nothing to do but . . . proceed. 

Well, obviously, we made it. And since then, that hill has been my benchmark for challenging driving.

Now, imagine you’re a horse, given the task of pulling cars full of people up and down such hills: a cruelly difficult thing to do.  In another graphic case of Dominionism, humans had decided this was a job for horses – a job that came with slips, accidents and brutal beatings. As if horses were created or designed to pull people up and down hills.  

(Ooops! nearly forgot the horses still forced to pull carriages full of tourists around New York City, Philadelphia and other places.)

Only years later, I learned from The Writer’s Almanac that in 1869, those suffering horses were noticed by at least one compassionate human, who had a better idea. 

Andrew Smith Hallidie was an English ex-pat who “saw a team of horses struggling to pull a horse-drawn car up a steep, slippery cobblestone street. The horses were being brutally whipped, but to no avail: they lost their footing, fell, and were fatally dragged by the car as it raced down the hill.”

Hallidie’s father held a patent for a “wire rope” cable, which Hallidie the younger teamed with a steam engine and a cable to get a car up those hills. In September 1873, soon after he formed the Clay Street Hill Railroad, the cable car became operational.

Any chance the horses linked to the old system were set free in green pastures?  (Guffaw!)

                                                                               HSI pic
So that was the 19th century. Now go back to the Middle Ages – or so it would seem – for a barbaric practice of entertaining (so-called) humans by torturing and killing horses.  Now, in the 21st century, the Humane Society International is fighting a tradition in Mexico that should have died centuries ago. As HSI/Mexico reports it:

Torneo del Lazo is a gruesome event that takes place throughout the year in various Yucat√°n municipalities in Mexico. During the events, cowboys ride horses being chased by one or more bulls in enclosed arenas. Once they catch the horses, the bulls severely wound them–often times gouging the animals–leading to the horses' slow and painful deaths. The crowd erupts in cheers.

Finally, a beautiful, impressionistic poem about the death of a beloved family horse.  (Yes, this has been a sad post. But sad happens.)

Narrow Flame
by Linda Gregerson

Sun at the zenith. Greening
  Slight buckling of the left

 hind leg. And all this while
            the girl
  at his ear 
good boy and now

 the hip giving way and mildly as
            was ever
  his wont the lovely

 heft of him lists toward the field
            that minutes
  ago was still so sweet for

 grazing and good boy and on the
  now where the frightening

 last shudder of lungs that we’ve been
            warned about
  does thank you darling does

 not come and feeling for a pulse
            no pulse
  and warning us touching

 the liquid eye which does not
            close which
  means the slender needle with

 its toxic everlastingness has done
            its job
  good boy unbuckling the

 halter lifting the beautiful head
            to her
  lap and all this while the girl


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1 comment:

  1. Yes, I too read about this recently and was horrified to learn of this so called entertainment. When will we learn this is not most people's idea of entertainment! It's so obvious to me as abuse. I cannot believe they are continuing this awful tradition! In this day and age aren't we beyond such horrific practices?