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All The Pretty Horses
October 24, 2011 5:34 PM   Subscribe

Meet the contraption that wants to replace Central Park horses. NYCLASS and Ban HDC are two groups pushing for the change; the many unfortunate incidents involving carriage horses over the years (including one just today) have inspired a bill that would end the practice, and also a documentary about the treatment of the horses.
posted by hermitosis (117 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
Tell me I can buy one on my own. That thing looks sweeeeet!
posted by FatherDagon at 5:36 PM on October 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


I don't really get why anyone would want to take a tour of central park on one, compared to a horse carriage.
posted by delmoi at 5:40 PM on October 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


I live downtown in a tourist town, about a block from the main tourist drag. Horse-drawn carriages for the tourists are a major, major inconvenience, especially when trying to get the kids someplace for an appointment (or even school). In summer, the entire neighbourhood smells like horse piss. I can easily understand why disease was such a major problem in cities before the dawn of the automobile.

These electric cars look like a major improvement.
posted by KokuRyu at 5:41 PM on October 24, 2011 [3 favorites]


The law guarantees working carriage horses in New York City free healthcare, no-penalty sick time, and mandatory 5-weeks vacation per year. Working humans in New York have not a scrap of those. This is why I can't stand animal rights people.
posted by Jon_Evil at 5:43 PM on October 24, 2011 [6 favorites]


This is why I can't stand animal rights people.

There are a lot of evils in the world. Personally, as an 'animal rights people' by some people's definitions, I'm working on more than one.
posted by six-or-six-thirty at 5:47 PM on October 24, 2011 [16 favorites]


This is why I can't stand animal rights people.

Because there's only so much "rights" to go around, and the horses are hogging all of it?
posted by General Tonic at 5:47 PM on October 24, 2011 [61 favorites]


I would rather ride in a snazzy electric car than be towed by a horse in a carriage. Granted, I'd much rather walk in the first place, but if I were to choose one of those two, I'd pick the electric car.

They have horse-and-carriage tours here in Seattle. All of the horses I've seen are really sad looking and appear to either be older or not in the best shape. They're always hanging their heads and looking pretty lifeless and dull in the eyes. Compared to the lively horses I've seen that live out in the country, horses that have proper paddocks and that don't walk on asphalt or brick all day towing around tourists - even the older horse I've seen in the country are much happier and more alive in appearance and apparent attitude.

Even compared to the police horses that Seattle PD uses, the buggy-pulling horses seem very distressed and downtrodden.

Is that anthropomorphizing? No, I don't really think it is. The horses I've seen here in the city are listless, slow to react to their environment and seem to be in sorry shape.

Pulling a carriage in traffic in a big city on asphalt or concrete streets isn't a good place for a horse. It wasn't really a good place for a horse even before cars were invented and the roads were still dirt and mud, but in mixed traffic with bicycles and cars? Not a pleasant environment for horses at all, way too much stimulation and fast moving objects.
posted by loquacious at 5:49 PM on October 24, 2011 [6 favorites]


The law guarantees working carriage horses in New York City free healthcare, no-penalty sick time, and mandatory 5-weeks vacation per year.

So do you think the horses banded together and collectively bargained for this?
posted by dixiecupdrinking at 5:49 PM on October 24, 2011 [7 favorites]


We take all the out of work young people and have them run our carbon neutral pedicabs. We can even give them tails and horse heads if it'll help.

I'm still holding out the liter bearer option.
posted by The Whelk at 5:51 PM on October 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


I don't really get why anyone would want to take a tour of central park on one, compared to a horse carriage.

It's a classic car! I'm not a car person, but I'm more of a car person than a horse person. It's all old timey and steampunky and brass and gorgeous, and it doesn't make all that smelly poop that ruins your tourist time.

This is why I can't stand animal rights people.

Because there's only so much "rights" to go around, and the horses are hogging all of it?


Because they sometimes put the needs of animals above the needs of people.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 5:52 PM on October 24, 2011


You know, I was all prepared to click on the link to the "contraption" and see something really awful that no one outside of PETA members would think was a good replacement, but... man, I totally think that electric car would be nearly as satisfying as a horse-drawn carriage ride (which in my experience ended up to be more smelly and less awesome than I imagined).

delmoi, I'm totally the type of sucker tourist that horse-drawn carriages are aimed at and I think this would be an acceptable alternative to a lot of people. Assuming that the driver goes relatively slowly (maybe this is a big assumption?), it's an open-air spin in a romantic vehicle with your fancy clothes on before you go get pre-dinner drinks. The car fits in really well with a lot of the historical/cultural imagery around Old New York as well so that's another reason I think this could appeal to people.

Note: I have lived in the midwest for a while and maybe the popularity of scooping the loop has damaged my sense of how cool or fun other people would find this. Then again I would think some big proportion of people taking those rides are slightly goofy midwestern tourists, so maybe these designers are just geniuses.
posted by iminurmefi at 5:53 PM on October 24, 2011 [3 favorites]


As someone with a fundamental love for horses, working or otherwise, seeing how badly cared for many of the carriage horses are in various cities makes my heart hurt. Badly cared for hooves, poor grooming, over or under fed, not given water on hot days when working... and any number of conditions even my poorly trained eye can spot in these animals that any person who actually gave a damn would have treated in a heart beat. It is disgusting. Unfortunately, most of these animals would likely be abandoned, put down for dog food, or worse if these carriage services were discontinued tomorrow. So, while something must be done, the governments of these cities also need to be sure that they are willing to.
posted by strixus at 5:55 PM on October 24, 2011 [4 favorites]


GAH! Willing to do something to ensure the welfare of these animals.
posted by strixus at 5:55 PM on October 24, 2011


Because they sometimes put the needs of animals above the needs of people.

And why are the needs of some people above the needs of other people? Where does the line get drawn? Also, who are you to dictate what things other people should care about?
posted by MaryDellamorte at 5:55 PM on October 24, 2011 [14 favorites]


In summer, the entire neighbourhood smells like horse piss.

Remove the horse piss and you'll still smell the homeless piss.
posted by kuujjuarapik at 5:56 PM on October 24, 2011


Lovecraft in Brooklyn, perhaps they feel there are plenty of others taking care of the rights of humans over animals? I mean, have you been to a factory farm?

Anyhoo, carriage horses are generally sad specimens. It's a hard life. Horse hooves are not meant to walk on hard surfaces all day in all weathers, and while they don't pull heavy loads generally, they do inhale exhaust constantly.

Semi-related, I recently put a call in on a "petting zoo" that came to my son's preschool. Not just for the cages of possibly drugged and certainly depressed overhandled livestock, but the pony-ride ponies had overgrown, cracked, splitting feet and walked far back on their heels, some in obvious pain. Animals can't complain about their working conditions, so we have to do it for them.
posted by emjaybee at 5:57 PM on October 24, 2011 [14 favorites]


And why are the needs of some people above the needs of other people? Where does the line get drawn?

I think 'the sentient, intelligent, technology-inventing, tool-using species that I belong to' is a pretty good place to draw the line of whose needs get respected.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 5:57 PM on October 24, 2011 [3 favorites]


I have no idea why someone would want to take a horse-drawn carriage (or, as the case may be, wagon) tour of a tourist area. It's something to do, I guess, although a ride in an electric classic car seems way cooler. Having grown up in a tourist town, I have no idea why tourists behave as they do, and I try to avoid doing "touristy" things when traveling just because I hate tourists so much.

Even compared to the police horses that Seattle PD uses, the buggy-pulling horses seem very distressed and downtrodden.

I don't know, these are breeds of horses that have been bred to pull things. They're working horses. It's what they do.
posted by KokuRyu at 5:57 PM on October 24, 2011


All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.
posted by b1tr0t at 5:59 PM on October 24, 2011 [5 favorites]


Because they sometimes put the needs of animals above the needs of people.

I don't think you intend to say, "People need to ride in touristy horse-drawn carriages through crowded city streets," but I can't think of any other interpretation of this statement which fits this topic.
posted by muddgirl at 5:59 PM on October 24, 2011 [13 favorites]


I think 'the sentient, intelligent, technology-inventing, tool-using species that I belong to' is a pretty good place to draw the line of whose needs get respected.

I don't think you understood my question. I asked you if we're drawing lines, where does it get drawn amongst the people? Why are the needs of some people above the needs of others? We already know you have a problem with animals, so it's probably best you stay out of the thread and not stir shit up.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 6:00 PM on October 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


"I think 'the sentient, intelligent, technology-inventing, tool-using species that I belong to' is a pretty good place to draw the line of whose needs get respected."

Dude, we already *know* you don't like animals. Move the axe away from the grinding stone.
posted by HopperFan at 6:01 PM on October 24, 2011 [17 favorites]


I don't think you intend to say, "People need to ride in touristy horse-drawn carriages through crowded city streets," but I can't think of any other interpretation of this statement which fits this topic.

It doesn't matter how petty a human's need is. I don't technically 'need' to wear a leather jacket that represents my individuality and belief in personal freedom, but as I am a human being and not a dumb animal even my WANTS matter more than an animals NEEDS. Does the shark ask the human before it eats him? Does the ant ask the fly? No. We are on the top of the food chain, and we will use animals how they should be used.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 6:03 PM on October 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'm confused. How will the electric cars spray a fine mist of shit onto your clothing?
posted by Sticherbeast at 6:05 PM on October 24, 2011 [9 favorites]


We take all the out of work young people and have them run our carbon neutral pedicabs. We can even give them tails and horse heads if it'll help.

I think using out of work young people to fulfill you strange pony fantasies is, well....
posted by GenjiandProust at 6:05 PM on October 24, 2011 [4 favorites]


Oh come on.
posted by KokuRyu at 6:05 PM on October 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


"we will use animals"

Unless you're suddenly related to some obscure monarchy, use of the royal "we" is verboten. I will co-exist with animals in the manner I choose.
posted by HopperFan at 6:06 PM on October 24, 2011 [7 favorites]


I haven't even mentioned the various types of whips yet.
posted by The Whelk at 6:06 PM on October 24, 2011 [8 favorites]


Does the ant ask the fly?

I wasn't aware that ants and flies were in a predator/prey relationship, although I must say ants have better PR people than do flies.
posted by KokuRyu at 6:06 PM on October 24, 2011 [4 favorites]


ITT: We argue with a straight face that the merest whim of a human being justifies subjecting animals to any and all tortures imaginable.
posted by dixiecupdrinking at 6:09 PM on October 24, 2011 [5 favorites]


We, as a species, treat each other no better than we do animals. Maybe if we respected animals more, we'd respect each other a little more. Of course, I'm a hopeless optimist.

Except I was expecting to hate the "contraption" and was pleasantly surprised. I'd dress up to ride in that.

I've been around horses since a kid, not interested in carriages drawn by them. Weird, because I've got all kinds of anachronistic interests. But working on a few ranches took all the magic out of horse shit.
posted by _paegan_ at 6:11 PM on October 24, 2011 [4 favorites]


Hitler loved carriage tours, you know, and he also loved animals.
posted by KokuRyu at 6:12 PM on October 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


These horseless carriages will never take off.
posted by Atreides at 6:12 PM on October 24, 2011 [17 favorites]


Fuck these carriage horse drivers and owners and fuck anybody who ever rode one and I've got a special "fuck you" saved up for anybody who would defend their use. There's a horse-drawn carriage that delivers stationery in central Melbourne, from W.C. Penfold I believe it is, and fuck them too.
posted by tumid dahlia at 6:13 PM on October 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


We take all the out of work young people and have them run our carbon neutral pedicabs. We can even give them tails and horse heads if it'll help.


I saw that porno too!
posted by padraigin at 6:15 PM on October 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


Behold! The mainstreaming of steampunk!
posted by kaibutsu at 6:15 PM on October 24, 2011 [5 favorites]


I was expecting the contraption to be more contraptioney.
posted by smcameron at 6:17 PM on October 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


I hope the mainstreaming of steampunk means we get a few babies named Augustus and Earnestina soon.
posted by The Whelk at 6:18 PM on October 24, 2011 [4 favorites]


I hope the mainstreaming of steampunk means we get a few babies named Augustus and Earnestina soon.

Please don't encourage them. Unless it involves corsets.
posted by loquacious at 6:21 PM on October 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


I, too, wonder if people would be as interested in riding in an electric car as they are in riding a horse-drawn carriage. I suppose they would be.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 6:23 PM on October 24, 2011


It doesn't matter how petty a human's need is. I don't technically 'need' to wear a leather jacket that represents my individuality and belief in personal freedom, but as I am a human being and not a dumb animal even my WANTS matter more than an animals NEEDS. Does the shark ask the human before it eats him? Does the ant ask the fly? No. We are on the top of the food chain, and we will use animals how they should be used.

Intelligence isn't the true definition of "humanity" or "consciousness". There are plenty of tool-using animals, and we've discovered that tool use isn't just limited to primates at all. Even some members of the invertebrates use tools.

Empathy is the true definition of humanity. Not logic, not reason, not tool use, not pattern recognition, not language - empathy. The ability to share and feel the joy or sorrow of another living being.
posted by loquacious at 6:26 PM on October 24, 2011 [28 favorites]


No. We are on the top of the food chain, and we will use animals how they should be used.

I don't think that was meant to sound as filthy as it does.

On topic - forget Central Park. I want one of these electric Charabancs for myself.
posted by running order squabble fest at 6:28 PM on October 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


Way to go America.

Like some much that seems to be going on in US culture and politics at the moment, it's visual and design confirmation that the country has no clue or interest in the future. Yes, Central Park is wonderful and has heritage, but is it really necessary to tart up a piece of modern technology in some ghastly steam-punk retro pastiche crap?
posted by marvin at 6:41 PM on October 24, 2011


It seems to me like it probably was. Surely human WANTS trump animal NEEDS in all arenas.
posted by muddgirl at 6:41 PM on October 24, 2011


These carriages are the worst thing about Central Park. Can't walk by without being hussled by stupid drivers. The whole place stinks of piss and horseshit, and it agtracts birds that crap on your head. And the prices are laughably outrageous.
Oh, and they can ban that statue of liberty guy as well, while they're at it.
posted by c13 at 6:44 PM on October 24, 2011 [3 favorites]


Lovecraft seems to be doing some weird carryover here of animal dislike from AskMe. It doesn't seem to be about this particular discussion at all or about horses as tourist ferriers in Central Park.

I support this. There are restrictions on the horses, but overall it's not a great practice and tourists can use these cars or the people drawn cabs if their feet, the subway and yellow cabs don't appeal.
posted by sweetkid at 6:45 PM on October 24, 2011


... as I am a human being and not a dumb animal even my WANTS matter more than an animals NEEDS.

Lovecraft in Brooklyn, I agree with your Humanism on a philosophical level.

But you seem to come from the same planet as Ayn Rand, and I can't imagine what on your world would be worth saving, or even getting out of bed for.
posted by General Tonic at 6:55 PM on October 24, 2011 [17 favorites]


I specifically think the electric cabs would be awesome. The horse and carriage thing is more about the romanticism of a past time, and is a standard trope in a lot of romantic films.

Pretty much NY-Class needs to get Jennifer Anniston and Sarah Jessica Parker onboard for using these electric carriages in their next round of holiday Christmas in the Big City love story movies. So when their character has the pinnacle plot changing scene involving a snowing central park stroll/ride/marriage proposal, the electric carriage is used. In a way, it's just moving the nostalgia period up from the 1890s being driven around central park by a dapper chauffeur with a horse to one with a 1910s horseless carriage.
posted by mrzarquon at 6:56 PM on October 24, 2011 [5 favorites]


No. We are on the top of the food chain, and we will use animals how they should be used

Yes, which is why many places have Animal Cruelty laws to prevent the misuse and abuse of animals. While I have no (hypothetical) love for the (hypothetical) Animal Rights Zealot (who can only be found in Dennis Miller monologues and Right Wing Talk Radio rants) Who Steps Over A Homless Person To Throw Red Paint On Someone Wearing A Fur Coat, you're missing a key point, LiB. People have agency, animals do not. Are there there more pressing problems than the treatment of Central Park carriage horses? Sure. But its not like Black Beauty and My Friend Flicka are able to organize the Million Hoof March, either.
posted by KingEdRa at 6:57 PM on October 24, 2011


I am pro animal rights, pro well-treated carriage horses (I am not sure they exist in NYC) and anti badly treated carriage horses.

That said.

One of my best wedding presents was a ride in a '49 Rolls Royce from the reception to our hotel.

I would totally pay for a trip around Central Park in an open air electric car.
posted by freshwater at 7:01 PM on October 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


We are on the top of the food chain, and we will use animals how they should be used

How does that differ from a straightforward "might makes right" -- the assertion that we are stronger, and more clever, so we owe no moral duty to those beneath us? If you wholeheartedly subscribe to that, on what mnoral grounds do you obect if the stronger warlord beats and robs you, or the more clever banker defrauds you? They are at the top and will use you how they please.

I personally think that we have greater understanding, and therefore have moral duties which a spider does not. I don't want to lower myself to the level of an ant.
posted by tyllwin at 7:12 PM on October 24, 2011 [4 favorites]


The last time I visited NYC I took the family on a ride in one of those carriages. It was a beautifully warm spring day, and the cherry tree blossom blew along the paths like snow. What a wonderful experience.
posted by Joe in Australia at 7:16 PM on October 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


Also: I will say that I would never, pay for (or partake in) a ride in a horse drawn carriage unless it was something like "my friends had a farm in vermont and they do this as a once a year sort of thing, with well cared for animals." I was always skeeved out by the use of the horses and the level of idealized portrayal in films which is probably why there is a resistance to them. I doubt many films could actually use the real carriage horses in them, due to the strict safety guidelines for use of animals in movies.

On the other hand, I'd pay for the same gentle, slow tour of Central Park in a near silent electric duesenburg. In part because they wouldn't let me drive my family's car through there (and it definitely isn't silent).
posted by mrzarquon at 7:20 PM on October 24, 2011


Empathy is the true definition of humanity. Not logic, not reason, not tool use, not pattern recognition, not language - empathy. The ability to share and feel the joy or sorrow of another living being.

I don't think I've heard this before and it's really interesting, but is there a scientific or neurological basis for this assertion? I've had dogs that seemed to exhibit empathy (i.e., they acted sad when I got sad as if they knew how I felt).

My gut instinct is that as with so many things in nature, it's not a black and white thing. Some animals communicate using, say, sound, so they kind of have something like language. I'd imagine some animals have something like empathy. Perhaps studies have been carried out, though?

(Sorry for derail. Decarriage rather.)
posted by DLWM at 7:32 PM on October 24, 2011


The last time I visited NYC I took the family on a ride in one of those carriages.

They've got them in Melbourne too, you know. You can see all the sights: Federation Square & the Yarra River.
posted by UbuRoivas at 7:33 PM on October 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


They've got them in Melbourne too,

Stinky bloody things. Shouldn't be in the CBD, pissing all over Swanston Street. Bring on the electric cars.
posted by pompomtom at 7:35 PM on October 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


I don't think I've heard this before and it's really interesting, but is there a scientific or neurological basis for this assertion?

Google "mirror neurons" .
posted by c13 at 7:39 PM on October 24, 2011


I run in Central Park about three times a week. There is a reason many runners avoid the lower loop. The horses aren't well treated, at all.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 7:48 PM on October 24, 2011


In my experience, I've found that little boys LOVE cars. Especially cool-looking cars. I could see lots of families enjoying the car tours.
posted by erstwhile at 7:50 PM on October 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


*opens large can of Beef-A-Reeno*
posted by unliteral at 7:51 PM on October 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


What a wonderful experience.

I, at least, am not arguing that "horsedrawn carriages are inherently evil," only that we have an obligation to treat the animals decently.
posted by tyllwin at 7:52 PM on October 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


as I am a human being and not a dumb animal even my WANTS matter more than an animals NEEDS.

Wow.

You have no idea how little I think of you after reading that. And yeah, I know you don't care. What a truly pathetic and pitiable belief. Here's hoping we never meet.
posted by dobbs at 8:03 PM on October 24, 2011 [21 favorites]


As a guy who grew up on a horse farm and cared for them daily, both for work and play, for both riding and wagon/carriage pulling, ignorant mistreatment and negligent care of horses will get you on the wrong side of my fist right quick. I once got into an altercation that nearly came to blows years ago when I saw a city carriage driver harshly smack a draft horse for stumbling without ever realizing a pop can had been caught in the horse's badly mounted shoe. The damn driver didn't even know what a frog was, let alone where to look for it. The guy's boss happened to come by and heard the altercation, and fired him on the spot. Apparently the guy had bullshitted him into getting the job the day before. At least the boss knew what's what, and was so ashamed and embarrassed, not so much at me, but to his horse, who he felt he betrayed. He was still stroking and apologizing to the horse a half an hour later when I passed the other way.

I have a few ideas to that would address several of the concerns mentioned in the article, and would have a side effect of reducing the number of carriages significantly.

1) All horses would be required to have the same or greater level of treatment, space, and veterinary care as the NY mounted police horses. I have heard they are treated well(at least before they are retired), I have tried to search for real info on stable conditions, but with no avail. (The cost of this would diminish the number off the bat, and raise prices as well. Do it right or don't do it at all.)

2) At least 4 random inspections a year by randomly selected, qualified vets for anyone who holds a carriage license.

3) Zero tolerance for any driver or handler mistreating a horse. Fired, forbidden to be rehired, and if possible, with video evidence, for example, charges brought on the offender. Three strikes rule on license holders, revocation of license, no re-application allowed.

4) Draft horses would have to pass inspection yearly, with a focus on health, age, hoof condition, physical health, and overall bone structure appropriate to the carriage being used. This helps prevent old horses from being driven to death, and prevent new horses inadequate to the job from being used, causing a life of undue suffering.

5) Limiting area of usage even further to minimize interaction with traffic. I'm not that familiar with the routes/layout of Central Park, but with the traffic accident photos I've seen, it could do nothing but help.

6) Required provisions for finding decent homes for all 'retired' horses, at the cost of the license holder. There are plenty of organizations like 4-H and others that already do this. Any sales/gifts of retired horses that would end up in a rendering plant would immediately void the license of the operator.

7) Required training, acclimation programs, and certifications for the horses, perhaps using the same requirements for police mounts in regards to dealing with cars, people, sounds, and surprises. Just as a dog wearing a harness does not make him a guide animal, the same goes for a horse.

Horses in Chicago seem a little better off than the ones in NYC, perhaps because of the easy access to open land for boarding, and a larger equine community to support them.

I've also seen some groups that promote 'barefoot' horses, as in without shoes. I'm not a fan of shoeing horses, and when we did it was only for short periods when necessary to prevent damage to the frog and upper hoof on some harder terrain. Depending on the breed, some horses feet can handle harder surfaces better than others. It would be interesting to see what breed combination and 'barefoot'/alternative shoes would be better for the horse on asphalt pavement. As an aside, a horse that has the rider on its back has way different hoof support needs than a horse that is designed to pull, as the points of stress on the hoof are very different. (Depending on the type and customization of the harness rig and carriage size, pulling can actually be less stressful work for the horse than having a rider on its back. YMMV.)

I believe proper and humane treatment of horses should be enforced with near-maniacal vigor by the city. Solid, no-loophole rules with extreme consequences. If you can't be bothered properly care for your horses, than the city takes what you do care about - your license and business.

This would nearly eliminate the business of horse-drawn carriages, and skyrocket the price, but looking at some of this mistreatment, it's clear that many of these people should never be allowed around a horse, period. Treat your horse right or GTFO. I have no patience for that kind of ignorant treatment of an animal. A work horse should be treated as an equal partner in the venture, not as some living machine-slave.
posted by chambers at 8:07 PM on October 24, 2011 [24 favorites]


Does no one recall Black Beauty? I know it's a children's book, but if you're having trouble rustling up empathy for horses, it's worth a read. (The fate of Ginger is one of the many tragedies in the story.)
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 8:08 PM on October 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


So after we've used up all the animals to satisfy every human whim, can I pick which humans to exploit next? My whims contain multitude and humans are animals, too!
posted by SakuraK at 8:08 PM on October 24, 2011 [4 favorites]


We are on the top of the food chain, and we will use animals how they should be used.

I'm just wondering how this relates to the issue at hand? Using horses in NY York to draw tourists around doesn't seem to fit into a 'should' category at all.

I consider myself anti-animal cruelty; not sure if that makes me some mythical animal right lunatic or not; all I know is that I think cruelty to animals diminishes people. And if the carriage horses are mistreated then I would like to see it ended. But I'm not particularly annoyed by the smell and inconvenience. I would put up with that to see happy horses with drivers who care for them properly, if that was a possibility. I think there's something worthwhile and beautiful in seeing animals in a cityscape, as long as they are treated well.
posted by lesbiassparrow at 8:08 PM on October 24, 2011 [3 favorites]


What absolutely disgusts me about the horse drawn carriages in Melbourne is their operators' refusal to outfit their horsies in rubber shoes. Sure, they may be substantially better for the horses but they don't make that romantic clip clop sound! And it's Swanston Street FFS - sitting behind a horse bum doesn't make McDonalds anymore interesting.
posted by Wantok at 8:12 PM on October 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


MultitudeS, dammit. Always getting zinged by the zinger.

Since I have to post again, I was also wondering if all of us humans are morally obligated to surrender to MRSA because it's pretty much above us on the food chain at this point?
posted by SakuraK at 8:13 PM on October 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


Because who would ever want to take a walk in the park?
posted by oinopaponton at 8:13 PM on October 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


It is like central park is trailing the present by 100 years. Perhaps 50 years from now they will have a fusion-engine El Camino prowling the parks for tourists.
posted by munchingzombie at 8:19 PM on October 24, 2011


In my opinion all horses should have been banned from Manhattan a long time ago, mainly because of the smell.
posted by knoyers at 8:21 PM on October 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


Pretty much NY-Class needs to get Jennifer Anniston and Sarah Jessica Parker onboard for using these electric carriages in their next round of holiday Christmas in the Big City love story movies. So when their character has the pinnacle plot changing scene involving a snowing central park stroll/ride/marriage proposal, the electric carriage is used. In a way, it's just moving the nostalgia period up from the 1890s being driven around central park by a dapper chauffeur with a horse to one with a 1910s horseless carriage.
posted by mrzarquon at 6:56 PM on October 24


Maybe Jennifer Aniston and Sarah Jessica Parker could just take over the job.
posted by knoyers at 8:23 PM on October 24, 2011


[Lovecraft in Brooklyn, please check your email. Everybody else, please consider not perpetuating the arguing-with-the-person-you-think-is-derailing-the-thread dynamic and move on to the just-discussing-things thing instead. Thank you.]
posted by cortex at 8:24 PM on October 24, 2011 [4 favorites]


mrzarquon,
What a stunning, stunning ride. I'm envious.

chambers,
I think you need to run for some sort of public office in New York that would give you the power to implement your proposals.
posted by sardonyx at 8:48 PM on October 24, 2011


If produced, the cars would operate on five lithium-ion battery packs, weighing up to 1,000 pounds.

I can totally get behind this idea, but only if the cars are driven over the tourists. Repeatedly.
posted by dunkadunc at 8:55 PM on October 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


"not given water on hot days when working"

Possibly fascinating fact (I find it fascinating but maybe you all already know it): If you were a wealthy man (or a wealthy man's widow, in this case) and you wanted to endow something impressive in your city in 1901, you could put in place a series of public fountains intended for horses. Such as this one.

An excellent local blog has provided a bit of history on the family that endowed these; the one in the picture was moved from the downtown to a local park when they were removed, probably when cars substantially displaced horses.

Anyway, Wealthy Grain Merchants of Modern-Day New York City, get on that. It could probably even be a Gossip Girl episode if you threw an interesting enough gala to celebrate your Central Park Carriage Horse Fountain Endowment.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:56 PM on October 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


I would rather ride in a snazzy electric car than be towed by a horse in a carriage. Granted, I'd much rather walk in the first place, but if I were to choose one of those two, I'd pick the electric car.
Right, so maybe you're not the target market?
We take all the out of work young people and have them run our carbon neutral pedicabs. We can even give them tails and horse heads if it'll help.
Actually, this was starting to become somewhat popular in NYC and the cab drivers got together and lobbied the city government to get rid of it, which they did (or actually severely limited) over the objections of Bloomberg.

Anyway, I wonder how long it will be before robots that are completely indistinguishable from ordinary horses are available. Maybe in less time then you might think.
posted by delmoi at 9:18 PM on October 24, 2011


It could probably even be a Gossip Girl episode if you threw an interesting enough gala to celebrate your Central Park Carriage Horse Fountain Endowment.

Yes, at the gala everybody could talk about how well endowed the Central Park carriage horses are.
posted by UbuRoivas at 9:24 PM on October 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


I was kind of expecting this.
posted by evidenceofabsence at 9:24 PM on October 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


Lovecraft In Brooklyn: It doesn't matter how petty a human's need is. I don't technically 'need' to wear a leather jacket that represents my individuality and belief in personal freedom, but as I am a human being and not a dumb animal even my WANTS matter more than an animals NEEDS. Does the shark ask the human before it eats him?

To a degree this is true. Predators don't think about the feelings or pain of that which it must eat to survive. That is nature for you, red in tooth and claw. The workings of evolution depend on it, and regardless of what we do it will continue for millions of years after we are gone.

But there is one big thing human beings have that animals do not. We know the consequences of what we do. That is a tremendous advantage, and a terrible responsibility.

Any predator that found a way to eat every other animal on the planet would do so without remorse, and then, slowly starving without sustenance, would turn upon itself. Thousands of times over the history of our world, a once-common species is hunted to extinction by a successful predator. They have no capacity to feel loss when that happens. We alone even recognize when that happens, and we alone are there to see that this means something wondrous has gone out of the world.

Concern for animals outside our species is part of that which means we aren't just another animal. There is something more than qualitative difference between us. You don't need to search for a neurological explanation to see that; simple observation will do.

No. We are on the top of the food chain, and we will use animals how they should be used.

Keep your imperative statements to yourself.
posted by JHarris at 9:26 PM on October 24, 2011 [5 favorites]


On the subject of horse troughs, near my house there's a disused one alongside a pretty suburban cricket oval:

TO HONOUR JAMES SULLIVAN
who lost his life on 23rd July 1924
when trying to save his employer's
horses from death by fire.

posted by UbuRoivas at 9:28 PM on October 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


Does anyone actually know what's going to be done with these horses if they're 'decommissioned'? My understanding is that there's already too many horses that need homes
posted by the mad poster! at 9:31 PM on October 24, 2011


On the other side of things, this is an excuse for me to link to They Might Be Giant's Electric Car.
posted by JHarris at 9:32 PM on October 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think 'the sentient, intelligent, technology-inventing, tool-using species that I belong to' is a pretty good place to draw the line of whose needs get respected.

Sapient, you mean. All animals are sentient.
posted by Sys Rq at 9:33 PM on October 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


> I'm confused. How will the electric cars spray a fine mist of shit onto your clothing?

This is a really simple engineering problem.
posted by contraption at 9:40 PM on October 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


The horses I've seen here in the city are listless, slow to react to their environment and seem to be in sorry shape.

Life long horse person here, including 10 years as a pro trainer. That means NOTHING. Draft horses are bred to be mellow, have low metabolisms (less feed) and to be slow to react. They are supposed to fall asleep when there's nothing going on and to ignore external stimuli. Because they're freaking huge. And are often attached to huger things, things with iffy brakes. Those lively "country horses"? are riding horses that would probably kill about 7 people a week each if they were used for driving in the city. Carriage horses are the mellow lap dogs of the horse world for a reason. If you don't beleive me look up runaway horse team on youtube. It's not pretty.

Driving horses are working animals like guide dogs or drug sniffing dogs. They are, for the most part, adequately cared for and yes, a lot of them are older but that just makes them all the more reliable. A good well behaved working horse with a calm disposition is worth its weight in gold. We used to get retired police horses and cart horses for teaching kids to ride and we'd use most of them well into their 30s. They last much longer than horses that didn't get regular work all their lives and they will pine and be miserable without daily human attention and a job to do. It's like taking an older pet dog and putting it in the woods an saying "have fun living wild and free!" They don't want to, they want to spend all day with people.

The horses you should feel sorry for are the ones that belong to middle aged people with more money than sense that can barely ride and are way over mounted. They have all the fancy blankets and shoes and hair care products but they also have some out of shape yuppie banging on their back and hanging on their mouth every day, until they lose interest and stop riding. Then you have a horse who has never received much training to begin with and is older and out of shape and probably has a bad back that no one wants and when the owner loses their job or gets divorced what do you think happens to them? They sit in a stall all day. Those are the horses that fall through the cracks, not the solid citizens with years of competent handling and a good reliable disposition.
posted by fshgrl at 9:51 PM on October 24, 2011 [21 favorites]


Not that I have anything against middle aged people or yuppies. But they are pretty much why I quit training horses. Got sick of seeing nice animals ruined by people who couldn't be bothered getting in good enough physical shape to be adequate.
posted by fshgrl at 9:55 PM on October 24, 2011 [3 favorites]


c13: How do you reckon they discovered mirror neurons, anyway?
posted by tss at 9:59 PM on October 24, 2011


Obviously the horses of Central Park need to be replaced...by genetically engineered glyptodonts
posted by happyroach at 10:05 PM on October 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


Honk honk.
posted by pyrex at 10:16 PM on October 24, 2011


TSS, I remember my neuro professor saying it was an accidental discovery, and wikipedia entry seems to confirm it. They were recording signals from electrodes implanted into the motor region of monkey brains and noticed that, in addition to whaterver signals they were looking for when the monkey itself moved, they could detect additional signal when the monkey saw the experimentor move.
posted by c13 at 10:33 PM on October 24, 2011


Right on, Fsjgrl. Stall-kept horses have that thousand-yard stare with a twinge of sadness I just hate to see. I've seen too many fine horses kept by people who treat them like a fancy hat: in an expensive box, only to be taken out when it makes them look good.



I think you need to run for some sort of public office in New York that would give you the power to implement your proposals.

Nah, I like being an 'idea' guy too much to ruin all the fun by getting into all the nasty political sausage-making details. I'm surprised how long that post got myself. What drove me to such detail was the proposal of a total ban on the practice. I'm not a fan of banning this or that in a reactionary manner because something is mismanaged or unhealthy or some action is frowned upon by a segment of the population. Often, it is a lazy, quick fix solution with the assumption that fixing the situation is too difficult. It rarely addresses the underlying problem, and stymies most serious attempts to fix it and do the job right.

To preface this so that I am not pigeon-holed and I am assumed to be a member of [insert your most irritating animal rights group here], let me say I'm perfectly fine with raising livestock for food and materials (treated with at least a modicum of decency - meet your meat, folks), hunting for one's food (though not a fan of trophy hunting; if you're going to kill an animal, use as much of it as possible), owning work and recreation animals (like horses), and of course, eating meat.
With that said:

There are ways of compromise that can satisfy a great deal of the issues, and still allow a way in which said activity can continue. Which is better: to ban an activity entirely, and put all the workers involved out of a job, or to enact strict regulation that may put just 75% of the workers out of business, and force a change in the way that the business model operates, and help change public perception?

In this situation, I can think of many positive things that can come of keeping this small industry active, but very strictly regulated, in the middle of NYC, and be a benefit for all parties involved. For those who see this only as once species mistreating another, you get the quick fix of it not being around anymore, but you miss out the chance of having an example people on a daily basis what treating animals properly looks like.

I know people who spent half their lives inside the city, and the occasional carriage horse was the only animal larger than a dog they ever saw in person that wasn't in a cage or on display, far out of reach of any real physical interaction.

Interacting with animals up close is the best way to help develop empathy for non-humans in both kids and adults. You can show all the disturbing footage of mistreated animals you want, but the visual shock will be so much less effective if the viewer never developed a real connection with an animal. Contrast that with someone who frequently interacts with animals, and I just about guarantee that person will be more concerned with their treatment. You can pedestalize them and wail to the crowds about their awful predicament, but if you take that animal into the crowd, and actually introduce them as another living being, with emotions and fears, and get support tenfold more.

So say the carriage racket was cleaned up, monitored and regulated. How could one further public sentiment in regards to treating animals respectfully and reinforcing the idea that empathy can extend beyond just humans? It's a simple answer, but of course, difficult to do. Develop programs that let people, young and old, to actually spend time with more animals than just dogs and cats.

Ban and legislate animals out of the public, and you've got yourself a somewhat detached public, mostly indifferent and apathetic to inhumane treatment of other living things.

Show people how to do things like how to connect with and learn to treat all kinds of animals 'correctly' from the start, and they will react much more strongly if another person acts with malice or ignorance toward other animals. It's been shown that developing personal connections with animals helps people develop empathy, and through that, can go a long way to making one a better, more mentally healthy person. It's a win-win: foster more respect for other creatures and have happier people to boot.

It's not much different than racism, in some respects. If you've never really met and got to know someone from another culture, it's a thousand times easier to just disregard them and have little empathy towards them. So go outside and get to know your nearest animal, you'll be glad you did.*

*This poster is not responsible for death, injuries, diseases, or wild antics and high jinx incurred by suggesting introductions to overly friendly, indifferent, rabid, or otherwise dangerous animals.

Remember kids, banning things only removes the symptom, and only rarely solves the real problem.
posted by chambers at 10:48 PM on October 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


Google "mirror neurons" .

Birds and primates have these too, apparently, though. So these hardly seem to be a human-specific biological basis for empathy.
posted by DLWM at 11:26 PM on October 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


I don't really get why we even ride them these days. I think we should just eat all of them. Eat all them cars.
posted by TwelveTwo at 11:39 PM on October 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


I think we should just eat all of them. Eat all them cars.

I'm on to you, DLWM.

After all the cars are gone, you'll eat up bars where the people meet.

/safe as can be with my guitar in a bar with the TV on so DLWM wont shoot me dead and eat my head.
posted by chambers at 11:51 PM on October 24, 2011 [3 favorites]


Birds and primates have these too, apparently, though. So these hardly seem to be a human-specific biological basis for empathy.

Well, I never talked to a bird to ask what it feels...
posted by c13 at 2:09 AM on October 25, 2011


Well, I never talked to a bird to ask what it feels...

I'm sure there are a few parrots which would oblige you.
posted by JHarris at 2:45 AM on October 25, 2011


What, a horseless carriage?! That sort of thing will never catch on.

More seriously, I'm a little disappointed by the proposal. They could have made it look a bit more like a vintage electric automobile.
posted by Skeptic at 4:55 AM on October 25, 2011


I know I'm not the only person disappointed that the "contraption" was not one of those four-legged all-terrain army robots.

Even compared to the police horses that Seattle PD uses, the buggy-pulling horses seem very distressed and downtrodden.

In every city that I have seen them, the police horses (and police dogs, too, for that matter) have been models of well cared for working animals. Whatever standards that are applied to them in terms of treatment, housing, and care should be applied to carriage horses.

Where I live, there are some people running a horse carriage business for tourists. It's not something I'd ever ride in, but the horse is visibly in good condition, and every time I see them parked they are petting the horse, talking to it, etc. If the NYC carriage horses were treated like this, and in such good health, there would be no need to be talking about replacing them with electric cars.
posted by Forktine at 5:49 AM on October 25, 2011


Ban and legislate animals out of the public, and you've got yourself a somewhat detached public, mostly indifferent and apathetic to inhumane treatment of other living things.

Um, we have several zoos in NYC. My family owns a farm and we have 77 cows. Our farm smells better than the area where the horses loiter in Central Park. I don't know why, but clearly a cement jungle is no place for large beasts like horses. If they have some animals, they should bring back some grazing herds. Sheep used to help maintain the grass in Central Park. When I lived in Sweden, they used sheep herds in parks for that purpose. They didn't smell and they were an ecologically friendly way to maintain grass.

Interacting with animals up close is the best way to help develop empathy for non-humans in both kids and adults. You can show all the disturbing footage of mistreated animals you want, but the visual shock will be so much less effective if the viewer never developed a real connection with an animal.

And why do horses work better than dogs at this? And the evidence is that people who grow up close to livestock are less emphatic to them than people who are isolated from them. I grew up around horses and have no problem eating them.
posted by melissam at 8:15 AM on October 25, 2011


Ok. So a carriage horse dropped dead this morning on 54th street apparently. I won't link to the photo, but it's pretty disturbing. Poor thing.
posted by sweetkid at 8:21 AM on October 25, 2011


To preface this so that I am not pigeon-holed and I am assumed to be a member of [insert your most irritating animal rights group here]...
posted by chambers at 10:48 PM on October 24


Don't worry, you didn't come off that way at all. You sounded like a reasonable person who is willing to look at both sides of an issue while at the same time maintaining concern for the well-being of the animals. Again, you presented yourself as reasonable, compassionate and methodical, which means you would have had my vote had you decided to run. (Of course showing reason and compassion pretty much disqualifies you from holding public office in either of our countries these days, but that's another post for another topic.)

I think you're absolutely right in your follow-up post. In many ways, I feel I could have written it myself. It's good for people to be exposed to animals and to understand how humans and animals can work together. I'm always disheartened to hear about (usually) big city kids who have no idea where meat in the store comes from and who have never seen a horse, a cow, or even a chicken in real life. (These type of stories usually come up whenever places like Riverdale Farm or the Royal Winter Fair in Toronto make the news.)

As long as animals are a part of our lives they deserve to be treated properly. So keep the carriage horses and the police horses working in the city and keep the horses running at the track or in the show jumping in the stadiums, but ensure that they're treated well and that there are regulations in place to ensure that treatment.
posted by sardonyx at 8:54 AM on October 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


And the evidence is that people who grow up close to livestock are less emphatic to them than people who are isolated from them.

cite? If this is true, I'd be at LiB levels of non-empathy by this point.
posted by oneirodynia at 9:01 AM on October 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


> I know I'm not the only person disappointed that the "contraption" was not one of those four-legged all-terrain army robots.

I was expecting a rollerblading robot drawing a chariot

>> as I am a human being and not a dumb animal even my WANTS matter more than an animals NEEDS.

> Wow.

> You have no idea how little I think of you after reading that. And yeah, I know you don't care. What a truly pathetic and pitiable belief. Here's hoping we never meet.


Do you WANT to eat onions?
posted by morganw at 9:23 AM on October 25, 2011


loquacious: Empathy is the true definition of humanity. Not logic, not reason, not tool use, not pattern recognition, not language - empathy. The ability to share and feel the joy or sorrow of another living being.

DLWM: I don't think I've heard this before and it's really interesting, but is there a scientific or neurological basis for this assertion?

Nope, none at all. Elephants and apes tend their sick, and mourn their dead. Innumerable stories exist of dolphins saving people from sharks, which requires the empathic understanding that being eaten by a shark is a bad thing, worth risking one's life over for another being. And an orca rescued from a net recently gave an hours-long happy-dance performance for his/her saviours.

It's fairly hard to identify a single thing that separates homo sapiens from "animals", aside from DNA. Empathy certainly isn't unique to us. Nor common to all of our species - see Lovecraft in Brooklyn's posts.
posted by IAmBroom at 10:03 AM on October 25, 2011 [4 favorites]


cite? If this is true, I'd be at LiB levels of non-empathy by this point.

I guess it depends what you mean by empathy. Children raised around livestock typically understand that the livestock exists for a purpose, and that is to provide things to humans. In my experience they have empathy for the animals in that they want them to have decent lives, but they have no problem viewing them as food or labor. Animal welfare activism almost always comes from cities.

It's fairly hard to identify a single thing that separates homo sapiens from "animals", aside from DNA.

Um, reading Metafilter?

Either way, you have no idea what those animals are thinking. There is no way to know whether or not a dolphin is playing or if they are "saving" a human because of empathy. And what really separates animals from humans is the ability to turn empathy into morality. Those dolphins that "save" people have no compunction against gang rape or drowning porpoises for fun. Humans do bad things, but the difference is that we recognize they are bad.
posted by melissam at 11:58 AM on October 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


The easiest way to create an animal rights activist is to raise a child in a city with pets like cats and dogs. Being around working animals fosters a totally different attitude towards animals.
posted by melissam at 12:04 PM on October 25, 2011


"Animal welfare activism almost always comes from cities"

This is an egregious generalization. Comes from cities? Like those of us who grew up in the country, you know, around working animals like cows, horses, goats, and sheep, and moved to the city because there wasn't any work back home? If I'm involved in animal welfare now, would your official demographics jot me down as rural or urban?

"Being around working animals fosters a totally different attitude towards animals."

Yes it does. Mine probably isn't the same as yours, though.
posted by HopperFan at 12:20 PM on October 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


Because they sometimes put the needs of animals above the needs of people.

Most people possess a certain degree of freedom both under the law and as a result of superior intellect that allows them to better their own situation; animals as a group are more likely to need my help. Besides, I like animals more.

If you're so worried that my time spent advocating for animals is somehow detrimental to the plight of humans, feel free to double down on your own philanthropic efforts.
posted by coolguymichael at 12:48 PM on October 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


cite? If this is true, I'd be at LiB levels of non-empathy by this point.

I guess it depends what you mean by empathy. Children raised around livestock typically understand that the livestock exists for a purpose, and that is to provide things to humans. In my experience they have empathy for the animals in that they want them to have decent lives, but they have no problem viewing them as food or labor. Animal welfare activism almost always comes from cities.


I grew up on a farm, and from my point of view people who grow up with livestock have a varied response to animals. I don't see much evidence for your generalizations based on my experiences living in a rural area and eating animals raised by people I knew. That's why I'm looking for citations re: And the evidence is that people who grow up close to livestock are less emphatic to them than people who are isolated from them. I would like to see that evidence, because it doesn't jive with my perception.
posted by oneirodynia at 1:01 PM on October 25, 2011 [4 favorites]


the evidence is that people who grow up close to livestock are less emphatic to them than people who are isolated from them

Oh, dear. That was a late-night editing error that ended up saying the exact opposite of what I meant. I meant more time interacting (not just observing) with various animals fosters more empathy than not having much exposure to animals.

some citations re: animal interaction and empathy devolpment
Promotion of Empathy and Prosocial Behaviour in Children Through Humane Education
Therapeutic applications of the human-companion animal bond
School-based humane education as a strategy to prevent violence: Review and recommendations
Children's Attitudes About the Humane Treatment of Animals and Empathy: One-Year Follow up of a School-Based Intervention


And why do horses work better than dogs at this?

I'm not saying that which is better at fostering empathy, per se, but domestic pets in western cultures, most commonly dogs and cats, have been assigned sort of a different tier somehow. I've met people who would spend thousands of dollars for medical care of their dogs, but wouldn't give a second thought to keeping a horse in a small stable 23 hours a day, or never realize half their chickens are blind because their chicken coop is way to overcrowded, and angry chickens tend to peck each others eyes out when they fight for space.

My point was more about expanding the sphere outside of the urban and suburban 'comfort zone' of more traditional domestic pets, and interact and get to know all sorts of different animals, so there is more of a basis to relate to the suffering of mistreated animals and even just other people.
posted by chambers at 2:48 PM on October 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


I grew up on a farm, and from my point of view people who grow up with livestock have a varied response to animals. I don't see much evidence for your generalizations based on my experiences living in a rural area and eating animals raised by people I knew. That's why I'm looking for citations re: And the evidence is that people who grow up close to livestock are less emphatic to them than people who are isolated from them. I would like to see that evidence, because it doesn't jive with my perception.

Here is a perfect example- 4H club, which definitely socializes young people into viewing livestock as livestock and not on the tier of cats or dogs.
This paper examines young people's socialization into the doctrine known as “dominionism,” which justifies the use of animals in the service of human beings. Using qualitative research, it focuses on the 4-H youth livestock program, in which boys and girls raise cattle, pigs, goats, and sheep for slaughter. The analysis portrays 4-H as an apprenticeship in which children learn to do cognitive emotion work, use distancing mechanisms, and create a “redemption” narrative to cope with contradictory ethical and emotional experiences. Although this paper focuses on young people's relationships with animals, and particularly with types of animals that have received little scholarly attention, the conclusions have implications for understanding the reproduction of inequalities, more generally. An understanding of the means through which people learn to justify the treatment of the animals known as “livestock” can shed light on the mechanisms involved in generic processes of inequality.
It's an incredibly biased paper, but it was interesting seeing this experience mirrored in city chicken programs in NYC. Children involved with these things have to become comfortable with animals as food providers rather than pets, which can be hard because you know, you can't keep every rooster and you can't keep layers that have stopped laying if that's what they are for. But kids DO become comfortable with this and it probably affects them for the rest of their lives. I know because I was a suburban kid involved in a city chicken program as a child and it shaped my attitudes towards animals, which are more stereotypically rural (pro-meat pro-hunting, etc.) than urban. Not surprisingly, animal rights activists have started to oppose these city chicken programs.
posted by melissam at 8:13 PM on October 25, 2011


and you can't keep layers that have stopped laying if that's what they are for.

Well, you can't keep them all if your financial well being depends on it and you're farming in a big way, but I can't imagine that's an issue with city chickens.

I grew up in the back end of nowhere in (small) farm territory and I think pretty much every farmer had at least one farm animal past its prime or usefulness hanging around that they hadn't gotten rid of. Their excuses were various, but that somewhere down the line that was the one sheep/goat/cow that they just really liked and didn't want to see sent off to the slaughterhouse or sold. It's surely different if you're running an enormous farm and don't deal with the animals one on one, but a lot of people with small herds seem to really enjoy the personality of at least one of their animals enough to want to keep them around well past their productive years. My favourite was the guy with this totally demented (but sweet) cow that he swore he kept around because it kept the foxes from the chickens. I can assure you that that cow had about three brain cells, none of which were dedicated to keeping chickens safe.

So I guess this is my long-winded way of saying that I think that it's a mistake to think that farmers view all their livestock in the same way, simply as producers.
posted by lesbiassparrow at 11:49 PM on October 25, 2011


IAmBroom: It's fairly hard to identify a single thing that separates homo sapiens from "animals", aside from DNA.

...

melissam: Either way, you have no idea what those animals are thinking. There is no way to know whether or not a dolphin is playing or if they are "saving" a human because of empathy. And what really separates animals from humans is the ability to turn empathy into morality. Those dolphins that "save" people have no compunction against gang rape or drowning porpoises for fun. Humans do bad things, but the difference is that we recognize they are bad.

The problem with your first argument is that it destroys the rest of your arguments.

If there's no way to know what animals are thinking, we can't say that empathy separates us from the animals, because we can't determine whether they have it or not.

... Which defeats your distinction that what separates us is "the ability to turn empathy into morality", since they might be capable of turning empathy into morality, if they had it. Or might have it. But you've claimed it's Schroedinger's Cat.

Furthermore, if there's no way to know what animals are thinking, we can't say that morality separates us from the animals, because we can't determine whether they have morality or not.

Finally, it destroys your argument that "Humans do bad things, but the difference is that we recognize they are bad." You can't know that animals don't know that these are bad, if you claim you have no idea what those animals are thinking.

This is always the problem with this ridiculous argument. People have used it throughout history: "Animals are dumb, and therefore don't think/feel X, and if their actions do appear to result from thinking/feeling X, it's not, because they don't, so there!"
posted by IAmBroom at 10:00 AM on October 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


Furthermore, if there's no way to know what animals are thinking, we can't say that morality separates us from the animals, because we can't determine whether they have morality or not.

Fortunately, there are ways in the lab to try to determine whether or not animals do have morality. That is what Wild Justice is about, though I disagree with some of the conclusions. I wouldn't be surprised if dolphins and chimpanzees have a primitive type of moral system similar to early hominids, which is why they are so interesting to study. As neuroscience advances we will be able to know more and more about what animals are thinking. There is no way to know if a dolphin is "saving" a human, but there are ways to measure mirror neutrons.
posted by melissam at 12:53 PM on October 26, 2011


So I guess this is my long-winded way of saying that I think that it's a mistake to think that farmers view all their livestock in the same way, simply as producers.

Well, that's what I was saying- that people engaged in animal husbandry have a complex and very different ethic about animals. I, for example, have extremely variable relationships with animals. I have animals I consider my friends and partners, animals that vex me continuously and eat all my berries, animals that provide me with important things, wild animals I like to encourage to live near me (like wild bees or hawks), and animals I eat, often overlapping. That's why I love the show Human Planet because I think the image of the woman nursing a baby monkey whose mother her family ate, is a great example of how complex relationships with animals can be. But people who think it is wrong to use animals are not going to be happy with the ethics coming out of things like 4H programs.
posted by melissam at 12:58 PM on October 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


IAmBroom: Furthermore, if there's no way to know what animals are thinking, we can't say that morality separates us from the animals, because we can't determine whether they have morality or not.

melissam: Fortunately, there are ways in the lab to try to determine whether or not animals do have morality. That is what Wild Justice is about,...

Fortunately, there are ways in the lab to try to determine what animals are thinking. It follows (IMO) from the Turing Test for thought itself: if for all extents and purposes the animal behaves as though it thinks X, and no simpler biological explanation exists, then it effectively thinks X.

Does a planaria think sharp objects are bad? Probably not, as there exist biological feedback mechanisms to divert travel when sharp objects are encountered. There's no evidence beyond this that a planaria thinks about sharp objects at all.

Does a gorilla grieve the death of her baby? Probably, as a myriad of outward, objectively-observable signs (depressed activitity levels, drop in social interaction, lower interest in food and play, obsession with visiting the corpse of her baby) exactly mimic human grieving. Many of these behaviors would seem to reduce her survivability, and certainly decrease her immediate health and safety.
posted by IAmBroom at 10:33 AM on October 27, 2011


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