Like the Puzzler on National Public Radio’s popular Car Talk or Arnold Schwarzenegger in the Terminator movies, Horses and the Law has returned from vacation.  The format is the same—posts every Tuesday morning, more often if necessary—but the focus of the column has changed.  I’ve always believed, and still do, that the real purpose of journalism is to provide enough unbiased information on both sides of a question to allow intelligent people to make an informed decision.  That’s what I’ve tried to do for the last two years, and aside from a few random observations about boneheaded politicians, all well deserved in my opinion, I think I’ve managed to maintain a fairly neutral stance.

That doesn’t mean my columns have always been read as neutral.  Occasionally we’ve gotten comments placing me at opposite poles on the same issue when I hadn’t intended the week’s post to take either side.  In its new incarnation, Horses and the Law will emphasize opinion and commentary and less straight reporting of factual news stories.  One of the pleasures of working with The Horse is that the staff does an exceptional job of objective reporting and there’s no reason for me to duplicate their efforts.  We’ll still talk about cases and legislation when they matter to people who care about horses and work with them, but in a somewhat different context.  I’ll give you my opinion, but I won’t twist the facts to promote an agenda of any kind.  There’s enough of that out there already.

If you like the new direction for the column, let me know.  If you don’t, let me know.  I’ve always been impressed with the thoughtful comments readers contribute, and with a new emphasis on commentary and opinion I’d like to establish a more active dialogue with people who are interested enough to read the column.  So don’t be shy.

What I Think 

So there’s no confusion about where I stand on some important issues:

I think equine law is more than just contracts and lawsuits.  It’s a broad concept that sometimes involves other species.

I think the emphasis should be on animal welfare and not animal rights.

I think government at every level—from the feds, to state legislatures, to local politicians—have consistently failed when it comes to animal welfare, from the ongoing mismanagement of the wild horse population, to Congressional inaction on almost every front, to pathetically weak state animal protection laws, to courts that refuse to enforce the laws that are on the books.  Government will continue to fail until politicians begin to represent their constituents instead of party lines and their own self interests.

I think the world would be a better place if horses were not being slaughtered for food anywhere.  I think the same thing about cows and pigs and sheep and chickens and tuna and salmon, and I think it’s logically and morally inconsistent to categorically oppose one without opposing all.  And no, I’m not a vegan.

I commend the advocates who are continuing the fight against horse slaughter.  They’ve been successful in the United States, but their impact is minimal on our neighbors to the north and south.  If our horses are being shipped to Mexico and Canada, I’d rather have horse slaughter in this country where there is some hope of government attention to the welfare of the animals than in a foreign country where there is none.

I think individuals who rescue abused and neglected horses, often at great personal and financial sacrifice, deserve all the respect and support they can get—and then some.  Solving problems from the bottom up rather than the top down can be remarkably successful.  On the other hand, I think horse rescue as a concept contributes more to the problem of abused and neglected horses than to the solution.  The more horse rescues there are, and the better the hard-working rescuers do their jobs, the less incentive there is to attack the problem at governmental and institutional levels.  Why try and fix a problem, it’s tempting to believe, if someone already is treating the symptoms?

Thanks for reading.  Let me know what you think.