Pets and other hobbies

I’m not about to tell you what you should or should not eat. I find that as personal as whether you decide to be “pro choice” or “pro life.” But I learn by talking things through, and if you can lend me your ear, or just keep reading what I’ve typed, then I would really appreciate it.

As you may have heard from NPR’s Philip Reeves, or others, some British “meat products” were composed of much more horse than the gentlefolk of that country ever imagined and a lot of people are in an uproar about it. But we don’t have to go across the Atlantic pond for such, shall we say curious, discussion topics. The United States Department of Agriculture is in the process of inspecting horse slaughter plants right here at home, though the resulting “meat products” will be sensibly exported.

I’ll admit, and you probably already know, I think of my horse as a pet. He’s as much a part of my life and family as Duke (my standard poodle), but too large to sleep in my room and a little harder to potty train. Naturally then, when I first heard of this New Mexico, and now Oklahoma, horse slaughtering business, I wanted to be outraged. How dare they?!

Fortunately, or unfortunately, once a philosophy student, always a philosophy student. I have the often-annoying internal push to form arguments that make sense. Part of that means that I must give the person I’m arguing against the benefit of the doubt and interpret their arguments with a sense of grace. After all, someone capable of running a large agricultural business must be an intelligent, sophisticated, and worthy opponent. This said, I am also a law student with a love of horses. I darn well hope to convince people not to kill the ponies! But how?!

I could argue things like: well….why don’t we start a dog slaughtering business for all the abused and neglected puppies and export that “meat product” to countries that desire it? Tempting…but not likely to be taken seriously as a suggestion and still leaves me with the pony-killing-problem. So instead, I’ll take Michael Jackson’s advice: “I’m starting with the man in the mirror.”

I, personally, wouldn’t eat a horse (at least not unless the world were at war and my nieces were starving, and then…ay ay ay….one step at a time). The reason I wouldn’t eat a horse is that experience tells me they are cognitively and emotionally intelligent, sentient, and social creatures. So is my dog. So are elephants. I would never eat either (except for maybe…just see the previous parenthesis). But then, I realize if I stop there I’m not a very principled person. After all, I think maybe pigs and cows are also significantly more intelligent, sentient, and intentionally social than say, turkeys and chickens. As a side note, I found a Jim somewhere that agrees with me, and have asked whether he’d be willing to chat more on the issue.

In the meantime, I need to figure out what I can eat while remaining the kind of person, true to self and principled, that I want to be. Kristen Daily’s summary of how animals become meat, in the Iowa State Daily, helped a little. But I’m still left with only an outline of what I need to do and a lot of questions.

At the base of it, I am an omnivore and a predator (eyes in the front of my head, instead of the side, make that obvious). Therefore, I don’t think I have to be an all out vegetarian or vegan to stay true to myself.

Maybe, since intelligence seems to be a big thing for me, I can eat poultry and stay away from beef and pork until I have the resources, and guts, to raise, humanely kill, and cook my own livestock on my own property. But if I’m going to do that, and not drive myself crazy over whether the chicken are free range, and what other “animal products” I’m consuming, etc., I’m going to have to be willing to forgive myself for being a well-intentioned, though probably ineffective, horse lover. I could do that.

Still, the thought that “the road to hell is paved with good intentions,” creeps over me. And I wonder…

Is my, perhaps half-baked, attempt at being principled really honest or worth it?

 

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Officially introducing: Chevy, the 16 year old Hanoverian that recently stole my heart.

The story of how we came to meet is a long one and starts long before I started my lease earlier this month. But everything changed this past Monday. A couple people participating in an instructor’s clinic at the barn said, “Judy wants to talk to you.” Judy, I found out right away, is a very special lady who was convinced my horse had a headache.

After a brief conversation I decided that I should bear the expense of her giving Chevy a massage. It turns out it was no expense at all, but a great investment.

For well over an hour I watched her work through sore spots all over Chevy’s head, face, and back. And it wasn’t just watching. She was so great about explaining what she was doing, and why. I learned about the “hooded eyes,” his lids drooping heavily over his eyes, that initially indicated to her he was in pain. I learned how to relax some of the tension in his neck before and after our work in the arena. I learned how to help him stretch.

Judy also gave me a plan: a couple of months of rehab rides for a middle aged horse that had been worked hard for years, and probably not cared for as hard as he was worked. In a short riding lesson she taught me that I could slowly help him come out of years of pain, and actually enjoy the work he was trained to do.

The best part of Monday wasn’t even all the massage-related things I learned to do, but what I saw and subsequently learned about Chevy and myself.

What a wonderful, sweet, and forgiving horse! Each time Judy found a muscle spasm or the location of an old muscle injury I would watch his eyes go into a squint as he stood still through the pain and allowed her to help him. Whenever given a little time to feel the eased tension, he would reach over and gently hold her hand between his lips. His message to her was simple and clear: thank you. It was a mission not to cry as I realized that he’d been letting me ride/work him for over two months, while in tremendous pain, without ever so much as a mean look. It all made me feel infinitely silly for ever copping an attitude and blaming it on P.M.S.

As for me: I felt sheer joy and excitement at finding out there was finally something I could do for him! He does tons for me just by letting me hang out with him, and definitely by letting me ride him. I always thank him after rides, and even before my lease began I bought him things like treats and a new halter. But he’s a horse. Does he really understand my verbal expression of appreciation? I doubt he gives a hoot about the color or newness of his halter. So there’s what I learned about me. I think I’m turning into my mother and find it hard to feel complete unless I’m “giving to” or “doing for” the beings I love.

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