Saturday, February 03, 2007

hippo--pocricy

I encountered an interesting juxtaposition of posts on a "feminist" (in quotes because I don't accept female chauvinism, particularly that which denies rights to unborn females and males, as feminism) blog. I'm not going to mention it by name here because I really don't feel like giving it what little free publicity I have to offer. Suffice to say that several recent posts on the March for Life and Roe v. Wade anniversary read about as might be expected given the views of the authors and commenters. Just above those was a paragraph mourning the demise of the racehorse Barbaro and deploring the cruelties of the sport of horse racing.

Now, as should be obvious given some of my past posts, I am a sucker for the critters. I offer, by way of animal-lover credentials:
1. Four medium-to-large dogs of a minimum of seven different breeds, two of whom were obtained from my community's pet rescue network and two of whom would probably have been put down by the authorities had I not taken them in.
2. The Havahart mouse traps in my pantry.
3. Several (to date unsucessful) attempts at bird and squirrel rehab.
4. Half a morning lost once tracking down a 1.5 cc bottle of clove oil to humanely dispatch a goldfish that was pretty much done for anyway.
Also, I confess to having once had a girlish enthusiasm for Secretariat and Genuine Risk.

Oh, I'm partial to horses; I was sorry, if not especially surprised, to hear of Barbaro's passing. But a few thoughts, please, for those out in the blogosphere whose sympathy for our four-legged friends at times seems disproportionate to that which they can muster for some members of their own species:

The term "cruelty" gets bandied about an awful lot with respect to all sorts of uses of domestic animals. I'm not going to quibble the finer points of when it's appropriate to euthanize an animal, or what sorts of sport or entertainment uses of animals, if any, are acceptable. I wholeheartedly accept that some aspects of Barbaro's (and any thoroughbred's) genetic makeup--that which made him such a phenomenal runner--probably contributed to his fragility. As one who grumbles often about the problems caused by dog inbreeding, I wouldn't argue that maybe it's time not to be so darn persnickety about the stud book and get some sturdier blood in those bloodlines, records be hanged. Not that anybody in the business has asked my opinion.

Still, the horse, from Eohippus onwards, was bred by nature to run fast and long. Is it cruel to run an animal that by its nature wants to run anyway? And while human treatment of animals at times leaves plenty to be desired, I doubt this is much of a problem in top-level horse racing. I've seen some kids who don't get the care racehorses do. Also, let's not be dewy-eyed naifs about the captivity issue. Life as a wild, prairie-roaming stallion may look majestic and exhilarating in the movies, but in the real world it's more often nasty, brutish, and short--and would be more so without human management. I'd take the bluegrass pasture and the racing schedule any day over death by coyote pack after some tougher stallion had kicked the stuffing out of me.

To me, though, the crux of the matter remains the apparent disconnect between sympathy and empathy among many pro-choicers. On the one hand, an exhibition of grief over the death of a horse; on the other, nothing but contempt and lack of concern--despite acknowledgement of its humanity-- for a fellow human torn violently and callously from life. On the one hand, a profound concern over human "cruelty" despite the fact that most racehorses live very comfortable lives, thank you; on the other, no interest whatsoever in the unspeakable suffering of a vulnerable being. All this in the name of female liberation and "choice," whatever that may mean to the individual.

Bill Smith, a pro-lifer from the left end of the political spectrum who generated some attention in 1980 with a cross-country walk to the March for Life, is cited by Toronto writer Denyse Handler in a The Human article reprinted in Pro-Life Feminism: Different Voices (ed. 1985 by Gail Grenier Sweet. Life Cycle Books.) I find his remarks relative to the human/animal issue extremely germane:
I remember what one of the Save-the-Whale People said when they cut open a dead whale and found a rather large baby whale inside: 'Those SOB's killed two whales, not one.' Why can't they look at human beings the same way?

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