Stop 2011, I want to get off. This new year is already confusing me.
The bubbles have barely fizzled in the last champagne flute and already we're back in the thick of horse politics. As the newly elected members of the 112th United States Congress took their oaths of office this morning in Washington, I was reading an article in the Wall Street Journal, of all places, with quotes that read like a cattlemen's association press release.
The article publicized the controversial Summit of the Horse meeting, which is being held in Las Vegas, Nevada this week. If you haven't heard about The Summit, you will. It was to be a meeting of a coalition of groups who propose (or who might not mind) that horse slaughter be re-instituted as a legal meat processing industry, whether in individual states or nationwide. And it's fine for them to meet, but the furor over the meeting is getting to be almost as intense as the furor over the issue of horse slaughter itself.
I wasn't surprised to see Stephanie Simon listed on the byline in the Journal. The Denver-based former LA Times abortion coverage specialist has been with the Newscorp-owned Journal for a while now and her reward seems to be landing story assignments about anti-liberal hot-button issues west of the Pecos.
The problem for anti-slaughter groups is that Stephanie is an excellent writer with a very subtle and valuable skill. She can make anyone sound sympathetic. A non-horseman reader who might find the idea of horse slaughter repulsive in the first paragraph might have forgotten that by the time he or she reads halfway through the article.
Actually, part of the bigger story of the wild horse issue is beautifully buried between the lines in an article Stephanie wrote recently about the Department of the Interior's assignment of looking at some BLM lands for possible wilderness designation. The BLM's press release on the wilderness order makes interesting reading. I'm not sure why the Wall Street Journal didn't link to it. It sounds like much ado about nothing; the new policy is little more than a reversal of a Bush Administration suspension in 2003 of one of the BLM's roles. That suspension might have given the cattle and mining industries more carte blanche access to BLM lands. The reversal might be good for wild horses, who knows?
The biggest surprise about this article? Only three comments had been left when I read it. I guess anti-slaughter proponents don't read the Wall Street Journal.
On a pony she named 'Wildfire'...
Back in Las Vegas, a surprise find on the event's web site is a statement from singer Michael Martin Murphey both endorsing horse slaughter and criticizing the plans of wild horse sanctuary proponent Madeleine Pickens of Texas. He was able to get both issues into one statement, and included details of advice he says he had given to Pickens that she ignored.
On her Facebook page, Pickens was quick to respond: "I'm baffled to his references to my sanctuary proposal. He was hired as an entertainer at our halftime ceremonies of two college football games. I didn't seek his counsel on the wild horse issue nor his stance on slaughter. He was contracted to perform his hit song 'Wildfire,' and nothing more."
Finally, I have come to marvel at the politics of horse organizations. Who can forget the tempest in the Arabian horse teapot in 2009 when executive committee members of that organization went to an American Horse Council meeting prepared to declare the Arabian group in favor of horse slaughter?
The world of horse sports...and horse slaughter
It came as a surprise to me when going through some notes to find a quote from November made by Graeme Cooke (left), Veterinary Director of the FEI, the world's governing body of horse sports. At a conference discussing the trans-European trucking of horses to slaughter in Italy from countries like Poland and Romania, Cooke explained that: "The FEI is not opposed to the slaughter of horses (for human consumption), but believes that slaughter should be as close as possible to the place of origin, and that slaughterhouses must remain open."
We've all heard about Olympic champion horses who made heroic comebacks after they were saved from a certain death at a slaughterhouse, but this was the first time I had heard an official with the FEI comment directly on the issue.
Who knew that the FEI even had a policy related to slaughter? Does the FEI's policy on slaughter carry down to any of its national member organizations as part of its welfare policy?
I realize that horse slaughter and the eating of horse meat is accepted in Europe but wonder if other organizations around the world take their cue from the FEI. Perhaps the best statement from a sport organization might be to say that the body regrets the existence of horse slaughter in our day and age, but that if it must go on, the distance between the unfortunate horses and slaughterhouses must be as short as possible, and that transport and end of life conditions should be regulated (and enforced).
I'd vote for that, anywhere on earth.