Who Will Save The Dying
The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) reminded me this week why I care so much about the New York Carriage Horses and why their fate is a matter of the greatest urgency to anyone who loves animals and wishes to save them in our world. There is not much time, and every animal we can keep among us is precious. For people who love animal rights and who love human rights, this is our Gettysburg, our stand, our truth, a struggle over the future of animals that cannot be lost.
On Tuesday, The WWF reported in a massive and detailed survey that more than half of the animals on the earth have died since 1970, horrific losses that can never be replaced, an ongoing catastrophe that can never be undone.
The carriage horses must not be a part of it.
Global wildlife populations shrunk by 52 percent between 1970 and 2010, according to the group's biennial Living Planet Report. Tuesday’s numbers almost double 2012’s projections, suggesting wildlife decline is happening at a much faster rate than previously believed.
The report tracks population changes in more than 10,000 vertebrate species. It also examines consumption of goods and resources, greenhouse gas emissions, natural resource availability and other bookmarks of humanity’s ecological footprint. Climate change and the ravages of human beings are the primary reasons for the staggering decline. Anyone who presumes to speak for the rights of animals ought to read this report and think of how the animals of the world can be saved, not banned.
The report breaks wildlife populations down into three major categories: Terrestrial, freshwater and marine. Terrestrial populations – like elephants, tigers, lions and rhinos – saw a 39 percent decline, as did marine animals. Freshwater animals – like frogs, salamanders, shorebirds and non-marine aquatic life – were hardest hit, with a population decline of 76 percent.
How does this relate to the New York Carriage Horses?
These horses are among the safest and most secure animals on the earth. Animals in the wild – the place some people who call themselves supporters of animal rights insist all horses should be – are disappearing at a horrific rate. The New York Carriage Horses live long and healthy lives, doing valuable work for human beings who – unlike most of their peers on the earth – take good care of their animals.
We know now for certain that the horses are not abused or mistreated, they are well cared for and among the most fortunate animals on the earth. We knew this even before the World Wildlife Fund report, but that does add some perspective. The horses in New York with their big bellies and shiny coats and long lives are not the animals in need of attention and rescue.
Animals without such work and human connection are disappearing all over the world, in part to human development, says the WWF, in part to global warming. The carriage horses have both, and are thriving. Yet they are in peril as well.
The great irony of the carriage horse controversy is the great and wrong-headed arrogance and ignorance about horses and animals it has exposed, both in the city's mayor and his allies in the animal rights movement. The carriage trade has managed to find a way to keep some of the last domesticated animals in our country in our greatest city, and to keep them healthy and safe. This is precisely what the rest of the world is desperate to learn how to do.
The people in the carriage trade have found productive and profitable work for the horses and managed to develop systems of affordable and realistic care that have been praised by one equine advocacy group after another, and a long list of equine veterinarians, hordes of regulators, police monitors and horse associations.
Just think of it. In New York City, we can see these beautiful draft horses every day – watch them as we pass, touch them if we wish, ride in the carriages if we like. We can see them outside of a zoo or farm or reservation, working and standing safely among us, for us to see, for our children to see, an extraordinary connection to our past, to our troubled planet, and an opportunity for our future.
Without the carriage trade, these horses – almost every one a rescue from slaughterhouse-bound auctions – would be numbers in the World Wildlife Fund's devastating report. They have, for all of their existence, lived among people and worked with them. In a just world, the carriage drivers would be invited to a big ceremony at City Hall, given medals for aiding the environment, for preserving the lives of animals, and for providing care that is far beyond what the vast majority of horses in the world could ever hope to receive.
Instead, they are being threatened, assaulted and dehumanized, fighting for the lives and their sustenance at the hands of an enraged and irrational fringe movement – a millionaire developer's mid-life hobby – that hides behind the love of animals to cruelly abuse people. And a naive mayor who doesn't seem to know a horse from a groundhog.
The most urgent right of animals is to survive in our world. If the animal population continues to decline at the current rate, there will be few, if any animals, they will exist only in images, videos, zoos, the preserves of the rich, and online archives. If the carriage horses leave, they will never return, yet another tragedy for animals that can never be undone.
They will never been seen again by the vast majority of people, including the many children, lovers, visitors and romantics who especially love them. They will be sent out into the holocaust destroying the animal population on the earth. More than 155,000 horses are sent to slaughter every year in Mexico and Canada, overwhelmed horse rescue farms say they cannot come close to keeping up. Even if places were found for each of the 200 carriage horses in New York, that would mean 200 other horses would die painful and unnecessary deaths.
Are we really to accept an animal rights movement that seeks to take animals from us, make it ever more difficult to adopt and live with them, and articulates the idea that animals like horses can be killed in order to be saved from people who wish to care for them? Is that the vision that will save the animals in our world from extinction?
Animals without work and purpose, without special connection to human beings are perishing. If the horses are sent away, no one can protect them from the animal diaspora well underway, accelerated by human ignorance and cruelty and climate change.
People who love animals are fighting all over the earth, from farmer's markets in Europe to the new farms of the young, to help the environment by bringing back draft horses and mules to replace tractors and trucks. In New York City, which claims to be one of the most progressive cities in the world, the mayor and his supporters in the animal rights movements are fighting to replace the horses with expensive electric cars requiring artificial power and made of metal and ore, and claiming they are ecologically superior to horses.
This is perhaps the only place in the world that claim is being made, (Google it for yourself. I did.) I often wonder how this claim can be made with a straight face.
The carriage horse controversy is important beyond the New York horses.
There are many issues in this conflict – including the question of freedom and the role of government. Democratic governments exist to preserve freedom and protect property. In New York, a mayor who travels the world claiming to be a leader of the progressive political movement in America endorses a campaign to deny the people in the carriage trade their freedom and way of life, and their property – the horses. If the mayor knows little about horses, he seems to know less about justice or humanism: it is not progressive to persecute people without cause, to deny them their way of life without due process or dialogue, and to take their property – their animals – from them.
Beyond that, the future of animals is the world is no longer a scientific or remote debate. Animals are at the crossroads, and if the animals of the world cannot be made safe and secure and preserved, human life will almost surely follow them to decline and extinction. People do not exist apart from animals – a seminal message in the carriage trade conflict – we exist in partnership with them, and always have. Their fate is not separate from ours, their future cannot be separated from ours. Their path is ours, that is the real message of the carriage horses, it is being heard all over the country.
Of all the animals on the earth, horses have the oldest and closest ties to human beings, we have built our world together with them. New York City too. If they are banned, our souls and spirits will go with them.
The carriage horses are a symbol of this great and important moment. They speak to us of the future of animals. They speak to us of the way human beings treat one another. They speak to us of the future of the earth. If the New York Carriage Horses vanish from our lives, as the animal rights movement seems determined for them to do, they will join the awful list prepared by the World Wildlife Fund.
It is time, finally, to decide if we want animals among us, or not, and if so, what we are willing to do and sacrifice to keep them here. For me, it begins with the carriage horses, loved and healthy and well cared for animals thriving in the midst of the great city, offering symbolism, comfort, entertainment, profit and history to countless numbers of people. For me, the campaign to save the animals in our world begins here, on our biggest stage, in Central Park, in the stables of New York City. All of the world is watching, waiting for a sign, a message.
For the sake of the animals of the world, the message they must see is that finally, at long last, one of the most important cities of the world says, "enough, enough. We want to save the animals in the world, we want to keep the horses here. It is time. It begins with the New York Carriage Horses."