Equine freedom, but at what cost?

Seth Victor

The blawg has previously discussed the controversy surrounding horse-drawn carriages in New York City. Now there is the potential that those idealized tours around Central Park might be coming to an end. According to the New York Daily News, both major mayoral candidates poised to run the Big Apple support a city council bill to ban horse-drawn rides. There is a concern, however, that if the practice is ended, the 200 or so horses that are impressed to pull these carriages will be sent to their deaths, not to some bucolic retirement field further upstate. The article summarizes the issue.

My question to you, dear reader, is what is the best result for the animals? Place the economic concerns regarding the proposed electric replacement carriages aside. Assuming that no home can be found for these horses, if you believe that the horses who march around the streets of New York City are suffering and are not being properly cared for, is it better to end their suffering through ending their lives, or is life so precious that between a life of hard work and death, life should prevail?

We’ve touched on this question before, and it is a divisive one between different camps of animal rights. Please vote below with your opinion. I recognize that there are many answers to this question, but given the choice between the two (and if being forced to pick the lesser of two evils isn’t American, what is?), where do you stand?

North Dakota Votes Against Animals

Seth Victor

In what must be a move of Dakotan solidarity, the people of North Dakota voted last week against Proposition 5, which would have  made it a class C felony, punishable by incarceration, “to maliciously and intentionally harm a living dog, cat or horse.” There would have been the typical exceptions for veterinarians, hunters, scientists, and, of course, agriculture workers. This is a measure aimed at domestic pets, which would have enforced against instances akin to Michael Vick’s dog torture. Nevertheless, 65.4% of voters opted to have North Dakota remain with South Dakota as the only two states in the nation without animal cruelty felonies.

Interestingly, this comes in the same election when three states approved same-sex marriage, a measure in nearby Minnesota to outlaw same-sex marriage was voted down, and recreational marijuana was legalized in two states. Additionally, within North Dakota, voters opted to ban indoor smoking in the workplace by a 2-1 majority, but also voted 2-1 for a measure that bans any law that would abridge farmers and ranchers from employing their own industry practices. It seems that while we as a nation are in a piecemeal fashion expanding the liberties of our own species, animals are clearly still an “other” that do not receive the same considerations. The vote on the smoking measure in a state that is traditionally wary of government intervention shows that individuals do not have an absolute right to do what they want to the detriment of others, but efforts to extend that same logic to establish animals as something more than property remain trapped in our legal schizophrenia. I can grasp the reasoning behind the farmed animal vote; established industry, I expect, advertised, lobbied, and campaigned more effectively to keep the status quo. Why anyone in 2012 would want to keep torture to companion animals punishable only by a slap on the wrist, however, is beyond me.

Animals Can Be Victims, Too

Seth Victor

Rather than regurgitate Scott Heiser’s words, I encourage you to read ALDF’s post about State v. Nix, in which the Oregon appellate court held that individual horses count as separate victims, reversing a trial court holding that multiple abused horses merged into a single count of animal abuse. As the post mentions, this is a very exciting case, and will be very useful persuasive law for cases across the country.

Don’t Look an Embezzled Horse in the Mouth

Seth Victor

I encourage everyone to read Angelique Rivard’s excellent summary of Steven Wise’s resent presentation at the Dyson Lecture Series, which explored the future of animal legal standing and animal personhood. Mr. Wise’s theories were on my mind when I heard last week’s Wait Wait. . .Don’t Tell Me.  Some of you might have heard that Rita Crundwell, comptroller in Dixon, IL, has been accused of embezzling $53 million from her town. As Peter Segal states, “Now the government wants to seize her assets that she got with her ill begotten gains and that means, according to the law, they have to file a suit against the horses themselves. So the case is on the court docket, as United States of America versus Have Faith In Money, et al.”

Getting a horse’s name on a docket is notable, but I’m sure not for the reasons Mr. Wise hopes. We’ve still a long way to go to move horses from “assets” to “persons.”

United States Based Horse Slaughterhouses Set to Reopen

Kelly Kruszewski

Horse slaughter is a very dark reality for a majority of horses in America.  Currently, however, there are no horse slaughter plants operating in the United States because in 2005 the Agricultural Appropriations bill yanked federal money used for inspections of horse slaughter facilities in the U.S. Without USDA inspections, U.S. based slaughterhouses cannot operate because the meat may not ship across state lines and the major market for horse meat is overseas. This all recently changed on November 14th, 2011, when a Congressional Conference Committee issued a report failing to recommend the defunding of inspections of horses slaughtered for human consumption. So this has positioned U.S. based horse slaughter plants to reopen despite the fact that horse meat is consumed largely in foreign countries; Americans would be required to subsidize what is essentially a foreign-owned industry. Continue reading

Victory for the Horses?

Seth Victor

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is a Republican governor in a traditionally blue state, and an unapologetic brash mover and shaker in Trenton, judiciary and legislature be damned.  He has been making headlines this week following his announcement that the State will essentially take over Atlantic City and other entertainment facilities. This move is intriguing for a number of reasons, not the least of which are the property and land use suits that will inevitably arise from it, since there will be a state takeover of the casinos, while potential privatization of the state managed sports arenas. Having been to Atlantic City, I’m happy for action that will make the place a more desirable attraction, but I am concerned about the impact Christie’s decision will have on the horses.

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The Show-Me State Legislature Making the World Safe for Factory Farms

David Cassuto

I used to live in Missouri (in Rolla — a place locals call “The Middle of Everywhere“).  I have many fond memories of my time there including my first visit to Stonehenge, drinking grape juice made from local grapes (the wine is pretty good, too), and doing a radio show on gulf coast rhythm and blues for the local NPR affiliate .  So it pains me even more than it might to report about the steady capture of the legislature by agribusiness. 

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