Posts Tagged ‘horses’

Country Life (and more) Midst COVID-19

Sunday, May 17th, 2020

Bob Gaydos

THE REPORT … emus, swans, secrecy and third parties

A couple of new neighbors. RJ photography

A couple of new neighbors.
RJ photography

  I’m a city boy. Bayonne, Binghamton, Annapolis, Middletown. Not big cities, but places where most stuff you need was in walking distance, there were downtowns, buses (in varying degrees), lots of kids, stickball, cats, dogs, and people you might nod and wave to. No emus.

      Today, I’m a country boy. Pine Bush. Burlingham actually. Slightly upstate New York (about 75 miles from the city), but definitely not urban or even suburban. It’s nice, except for the stuff you need not being in walking distance. The pandemic has made even that less of a nuisance since we’ve discovered that you can order anything online to be delivered to your door. It eliminates the human connection, but society has been working on that for some time now.

       Back to the emus. One of the pleasures of country living is the abundance of non-human neighbors. In the past I’ve commented on eagles, coyotes, owls, woodpeckers and the variety of visitors to our bird feeders (still just two cardinals). But that’s chicken feed compared to the menagerie we’ve seen on just one local road over the past few months.

       In the four-and-a-half miles under discussion, we have seen: Two stunning black swans, two emus, flocks of chickens, one beautiful white swan, one peacock (please get off the road)  a pig, two score of horses, herds of cows, four white, domesticated geese, Canada geese galore, a llama, several sheep (please stay off the road!), a blue heron, grazing herds of deer, a bull and one outspoken burro. A recent addition — a mare and her foal. Most of these are permanent residents we look forward to seeing regularly. Toto, we’re not in Bayonne anymore. By the way, I’ll give a shout out here to any reader who can identify this road.

       Hint: It’s in Orange County.

      — By the way … speaking of shouting out. Mitch McConnell is probably wishing he’d kept his mouth shut last week. The Senate majority leader first said that Barack Obama “should’ve kept his mouth shut” instead of criticizing the Dotard’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. “Classless,” McConnell suggested. He got mocked all over Twitter and Facebook for this absurd comment, given the lack of class demonstrated by the person he was defending. Then, McConnell had to eat crow by admitting that, contrary to what he and Dotard were saying, the Obama administration had indeed left a detailed playbook on how to handle future pandemics. Dotard got rid of it. That’s what happens when lying becomes so automatic you do it as naturally as breathing. McConnell is a disgrace.

       — By the way … Kentucky, the state represented by Republicans McConnell and the foolish Rand Paul, both of whom have objected to further stimulus funds for people who have lost their jobs because of COVID-19, is one of the states most economically impacted by the pandemic. This from the Lexington Herald-Leader: “Figures released Thursday show that another 103,548 Kentuckians filed for unemployment last week, bringing the total number of initial claims since the beginning of the novel coronavirus outbreak in mid-March to nearly 500,000, or 24 percent of the state’s total civilian workforce. Two analyses from financial technology companies show Kentucky is one of the most-impacted states when measuring the number of claims as a percentage of the workforce, and when measuring the percentage increase in unemployment claims from the start of the COVID-19 crisis.” But hey, Kentuckians, keep electing these yohos because, you know, they’re poking fingers in the eyes of The Man.  And you’re about to lose your old Kentucky home. 

        — By the way … A lot of state and local governments have used the pandemic as an excuse to make it difficult or impossible to get access to public records. Many are routinely denying Freedom of Information requests. Of course, at the same time, these governments are making major decisions and spending billions fighting COVID-19. Not a time when government secrecy should be encouraged. David Snyder, executive director of the First Amendment Coalition, a California-based nonprofit fighting this trend, says, “It’s just essential that the press and the public be able to dig in and see records that relate to how the government has responded to the crisis. That’s the only way really to avoid waste, fraud, abuse and to ensure that governments aren’t overstepping their bounds.” Or to find out if they even have a clue as to what they’re doing.

        — By the way … Rep. Justin Amash, an independent Michigan congressman who had the guts and good sense to quit the Republican Party, has again come to his senses and given up his foolhardy and potentially damaging bid to run for president as a Libertarian. (You didn’t know?) Amash blamed COVID-19 (it’s become a handy multi-purpose excuse) for making it so difficult to campaign. Call it a mercy killing. He didn’t mention that maybe he had no shot at winning and the effort would mostly be an exercise in ego and spreading routinely rejected Libertarian views. He was running because of his dislike for Drumpf, which is commendable, but his candidacy would also have gotten votes from Republicans and others who don’t like Drumpf, but can’t find themselves voting for Joe Biden or another Democrat. Shades of Ralph Nader and Al Gore and Hillary Clinton and Jill Stein. This is no year for symbolic votes, people.

Bob Gaydos is writer-in-residence at zestoforange.com.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

 

We Don’t Eat Horses, Do We?

Wednesday, March 6th, 2013

Mustangs running free ... for how long?

By Bob Gaydos

Let’s talk about horse meat.

What’s that? You don’t want to talk about horse meat? Fine. Then I’ll talk and you listen. Please.

I’m talking about horse meat because, as some of you may have heard, there is a horse meat scandal engulfing Europe. It started with horse meat showing up in what were supposedly beef burgers in England and Ireland. It has subsequently shown up in packaged lasagna in Italy and in Swedish meatballs marketed by Ikea, which I, probably like you, thought was just a furniture company. Ikea quickly pulled all its meatballs off the market in Europe and Southeast Asia, even though the horse meat was detected only in a couple of samples in Czechoslovakia. There’s a good name to protect and Ikea customers were buying what they thought was ground beef, not horse meat. A smart business move. Some packaged meat products were also found to contain horse meat. Calls for more testing are spreading across the continent.

Let’s be clear. This is not a safety issue. Well, not primarily — some drugs given to horses can be dangerous, especially for unknowing consumers. Horse meat is a regular part of the diet in some countries, France and Khazakhstan, for example, where history has set precedence for eating horse meat. But a lot of people prefer not to eat horse meat for moral, personal reasons and purposely mislabeling beef products that contain horse meat (which is cheaper to produce because of fewer controls) is not just criminal, it is, in a very real sense, immoral.

So what? you say. Americans don’t eat horse meat and don’t slaughter horses. Supposedly no horse meat is imported into this country. Do I have to worry about horse meat showing up in Big Macs or tacos? (Probably not.) Then it’s not our problem, right?

Not so fast. The world economy is simply too inter-related for such an easy (typically American) dismissal — not our problem; move on. Mainstream American media news stories that finally caught up with the story, which broke in January, detailed Europe’s horse meat situation and went so far, geographically speaking, as mentioning meat suppliers in Mexico, but no farther.

But it turns out that there is a very real possibility that some of the horse meat being shipped out of Mexico — and Canada — includes horses bought from American businesses legally prohibited from selling to horse slaughterers and, furthermore, includes wild horses, protected presumably forever by federal law to roam free on federal land, perhaps to be adopted by caring humans and to die in peace. Not in a slaughterhouse.

Americans by and large don’t eat horse meat (polls show some 80 percent oppose slaughtering horses). Horse meat used to show up in pet food, but the animal decades ago passed into that special category we reserve for dogs and cats. Americans don’t eat animals who are pets, companions, participants in sports or, indeed, partners in war, all of which the horse has been in America. Spike is a companion; Secretariat was a champion.

This is not a matter of taste, but respect, even love, for fellow inhabitants of this planet. Americans do not raise horses for their meat and we recognize the rightness, if not the “right” of some 35,000 wild mustangs (the number once was in the millions) to run free on millions of acres of federal land in the West.

At least most of us do. Again, we’re talking ethics and morals here, not personal tastes in meat products. A law protecting horses from slaughter expired in 2011, but Congress in 2005 refused to fund inspections for horse slaughterhouses and, without inspections, you can’t operate a slaughterhouse in this country.

That situation has held until today. But there is an effort in New Mexico to authorize a horse slaughterhouse and Oklahoma is also debating whether to legalize the slaughter of horses. And the federal Bureau of Land Management has been under attack by advocacy groups for failing to protect the mustangs from what are said to be abusive, unnecessary efforts to cull herds through helicopter-driven roundups, for putting some 45,000 in “holding corrals” and for allegedly allowing thousands of them to be sold for slaughter in Mexico and Canada, to be shipped worldwide.

Ken Salazar recently resigned as Secretary of the Interior, admitting that the wild horses management issue was the toughest one he had faced. The wild horse advocacy groups counter that he never really faced the issue, being a former rancher who dealt with companies that sold horses to Mexican slaughterhouses. His would-be successor, Sally Jewell, is being pressured by horse advocacy groups to explain her positions on issues affecting wild horses, who must routinely battle energy companies and ranchers and farmers, whose livestock far outnumber the mustangs, for use of public lands.

While the issue has some currency, I suspect it will pass quietly from the American landscape, unless some horse meat is detected in a package of Swanson’s frozen meat loaf. Then, all hell will break loose and people will demand to know how that happened. How did they get horses to slaughter? Where were the inspectors? What do you mean these were wild horses? Didn’t Congress protect them in 1971, calling them “living symbols of the historic and pioneer spirit of the West”? Didn’t that mean for life? Who’s protecting the horses?

Because, you see, Americans don’t eat horse meat.

bob@zestoforange.com