Jerry's Take

“And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.”–Genesis 1:24-26

Opinion by Jerry Finch

Back in the dark ages when we started Habitat for Horses, the inner mind of those who abuse and neglect horses was a hot topic. Beyond the hours of discussion there lay far more hours of research, which eventually led me to a walk in the West Wing of the White House with Mathew Scully, the author of “Dominion.” Scully was a speech writer at the White House at the time, penning many of the talks of President George W. Bush.

His insights added much to my understanding of man’s treatment of animals and how so many humans escape the reality of the harm we do to those which share the earth with us. After long days of chasing down bad guys and trying to bring the starved back to health, I’d tuck myself into bed and read his book late into the night, surprised when his passages so well reflected the scrambled thoughts within my own mind.

“Such terrifying powers we possess, but what a sorry lot of gods some men are. And the worst of it is not the cruelty but the arrogance, the sheer hubris of those who bring only violence and fear into the animal world, as if it needed any more of either. Their lives entail enough frights and tribulations without the modern fire-makers, now armed with perfected, inescapable weapons, traipsing along for more fun and thrills at their expense even as so many of them die away. It is our fellow creatures’ lot in the universe, the place assigned them in creation, to be completely at our mercy, the fiercest wolf or tiger defenseless against the most cowardly man. And to me it has always seemed not only ungenerous and shabby but a kind of supreme snobbery to deal cavalierly with them, as if their little share of the earth’s happiness and grief were inconsequential, meaningless, beneath a man’s attention, trumped by any and all designs he might have on them, however base, irrational, or wicked.”

― Matthew Scully, Dominion: The Power of Man, the Suffering of Animals, and the Call to Mercy

It was not only the needless death of the two yearlings this past week that brought back the memories of those periods of reflection, but also the passage of the Omnibus Bill defunding inspectors at equine slaughterhouses. While the equine champions of North America finally have something on which to stamp a success, we need to be reminded that despite the millions spent by both sides in lobby efforts and litigation, we now stand at exactly the same place we stood in 2011 before the pro-slaughter conspirators slipped the funding language into law.

Despite what so many major and minor national and local organizations want to make you believe, it was only through the efforts of Victoria McCullough, FL State Senator Joe Abruzzo and Vice President Joe Biden, plus the efforts of the Equine Welfare Alliance and Equine Advocates, that the defunding language was placed into and kept in the Omnibus Bill. They and they alone brought down the dreams of Rains Meat, the Governor of Oklahoma and poor Rick in Roswell.

But beyond all the shouting about victory, our horses and donkeys are still being slaughtered in Mexico and Canada. Nothing has changed in the lives of those stuck in feedlots, being loaded onto trucks with the false paperwork and back-slapping winks between killer-buyers and Federal Inspectors.

Just as in the court case regarding the death of two precious yearling, we question if there was any impact beyond the lives of those we saved. Yes, the owner cried and yes, it made the local media, but in the long run, did any human spend a moment of self-reflection? Was there ever a thought that perhaps we as a society need to rethink our own measure of dominion?

Our love of animals, our compassion for all creatures, must extent further than to see just that which lays before us. We should never allow ourselves to lust after a hamburger without seeing the downed cow struggling to survive, to see the pork chop without seeing the pig that lived in a crate for all of it’s short life. We must know and understand that our choices make us participants in the very acts of cruelty that we protest.

There were many people that walked by the five starving horses which we seized last week. The stalls were rented out to a wide variety of folks, but none bothered to do anything other than shake their heads in disgust and mumble that someone needed to do something. Nothing happened until someone finally called. Too late for the lives to two very precious yearlings, but just in time to save the lives of three surviving souls.

While God gave us dominion, it is up to us, as a society, to define all which that means. If we are satisfied with the extreme cruelty we inflict on animals, let’s admit it. Let’s not spare the dogs and cats, let’s not be squeamish about killing anything. But if there is a thread of doubt, if one of us cries in the courtroom when confronted with our own acts of cruelty, then perhaps we have come to a place in our time to re-evaluate our own beliefs in dominion.

And that time is never more important than it is now.

“Animals are more than ever a test of our character, of mankind’s capacity for empathy and for decent, honorable conduct and faithful stewardship. We are called to treat them with kindness, not because they have rights or power or some claim to equality, but in a sense because they don’t; because they all stand unequal and powerless before us.”

― Matthew Scully, Dominion: The Power of Man, the Suffering of Animals, and the Call to Mercy

POST DATE: 01/17/2014