It’s been an awful month for horses.
Personally, I am not especially sentimental about equine quadrupeds. Growing up a lower middle class city kid, I was never around one, and I have ridden a horse only twice in my lifetime (both very tame and well-trained critters who probably required no direction from me). I can appreciate their beauty and respect my wife’s more informed opinion that, in personality, horses have a lot in common with dogs.
But I am against needless suffering on the part of any living creatures. And two incidents over the past week and a half illustrate -- through infliction of superfluous, ghastly, and ultimately mortal pain on sweet innocent animals -- the far-too-common hatefulness and murderous inconsideration of our “noble” species.
Yesterday, eight horses (one just a week old and another about to give birth) burned to death in a barn fire in Ohio that authorities believe was deliberately set as an anti-gay hate crime. Last week, six racehorses burned to death on a freeway in Colorado because a passing driver flicked a burning cigarette butt -- inadvertently, one hopes, though that didn't make a difference to the horses -- into their trailer.
In one case, these simple and gentle creatures suffered agonizing deaths because some person or persons indulged his (and you pretty much have to assume the masculine pronoun applies in this case) pig-ignorant fears and insecurities, spray-painted “fags are freaks” and “burn in hell” on the barn walls, and set fire to the interior after walking right past the stalled (which is to say trapped) animals. What better illustration could one have of the inhumanity and despicable irrationality of homophobia? Couldn’t the arsonist(s) at least have let the horses out of their stalls and the barn door first?
In the other, a motorist indulged his or her filthy addiction and unconcern for others by “merely” littering on a federal highway … with the result that, again, innocent and sweet creatures died in massive pain and agony. The only thing worse is when a despairing, indebted, and separated or divorced father takes a gun or a match to his children as well as himself. (And yes, that happened across town this week, too.) I hope the law catches up with the malefactors in both of the horse incidents and somehow makes them see -- really see -- the consequences of their actions.
When a human being behaves abominably, we often automatically call him an "animal," but it's hard to think of an act an animal might commit like these two incidents. Saying an animal was behaving as thoughtlessly and murderously as a human would be the worse insult.
We all make mental calculations about when to abide by laws and when not to -- from littering and walking against the light to driving after a few drinks -- but some “simple and harmless” offenses, it turns out, can have far deadlier effects than others. Better to observe the letter and spirit of the law as best you can, as much as you can.