The answer is yes. A firm, loud, resounding YES.
I am in love with a tall, strawberry blonde guy that is now named Big Paul. Big Paul, a Belgian draft horse, came into my consciousness via a post on a Facebook feed highlighting horses purchased at auction by “kill buyers,” and in danger of being shipped to Mexican slaughter houses. It’s a grim, sad business that often inspires great debate, anger, and frustration.
But falling for and subsequently rescuing Big Paul has really opened my eyes even wider to the situation. While people argue back and forth about the morality of the whole issue, I’m just firmly rooted in the one thing that should really matter in any discussion of the topic.
And for me, Big Paul.
I have a lot to think about. It’s one thing to know that something like this goes on, that animals who have been our trusted partners for centuries are allowed to meet such a horrific fate. But where is the crime? Is it in slaughtering horses? Is it in being the middleman whose job it is to purchase the horses? Or is it rooted in the hands of the people who let their horses go to the highest bidder in the first place? For some in other countries, horses are a commodity, a business, a food source. And here, we have a surplus of horses that are seemingly cast aside. As wrong as that feels to me, it is reality.
Are we right or wrong to ban slaughter houses in the United States? If you had asked me that question a month ago, I would have been firmly on the “not in my backyard” bandwagon. But is it better to have these innocent horses endure the agony of a long journey across borders to meet an unregulated, often inhumane demise?
Or would it be better to have well-regulated slaughter houses here, in the Unites States, where horses would have a shorter trip, less holding time, and we could work to ensure a swift, humane end? I don’t like the idea any more than most horse lovers and animal welfare champions do, but if you really stop to consider the horses, which is the most humane option?
We see cats and dogs euthanized in shelters all across the United States every single day. It’s not right…we don’t like it…but it’s reality. We don’t ship them away.
I have a lot going on in my brain right now. I have a lot of questions. I don’t have a lot of answers. I’m not sure what is right and what is wrong. But I know one thing for sure. I have a horse that was once named Asher on a feedlot in Oklahoma, who is now safe and has been renamed Big Paul. He is my focus right now. He is counting on me to make good decisions for him.
Like many horses that go through auctions, then onto feedlots where horses are constantly coming and going and stress is high, Big Paul has developed a runny nose. It’s not too serious at the moment, and the very nice woman who is providing his quarantine at the “horse hotel.” Silvermoon TLC, is watching over him carefully. But it’s still cause for concern. Big Paul will get checked over by a veterinarian tomorrow.
I’m hopeful that his “shipping cold,” as it is commonly called at the feedlots, is minor. He could have nothing more than a mild, runny nose. He could develop a fever and a cough. We just don’t know. Feedlots are a breeding ground for illness in horses.
Whatever Big Paul needs, we will see that he gets it. Thanks to an online campaign by my friend, author Jon Katz (www.bedlamfarm.com) we have received an amazing outpouring of compassion and concern from people from all across the country, many I don’t even know. Through the kindness of friends and strangers, I am receiving donations to cover Paul’s purchase and immediate expenses. It is a blessing to not be worried about the vet bills. Paul will receive good care. I am incredibly grateful for this gift.
I was hoping to go meet Paul in person today, he is currently staying a couple of hours to the southwest of my farm. I wanted to hug his huge neck and tell him that everything is going to be ok. The weather didn’t cooperate, however, so our meeting will have to wait for next weekend. Hopefully he’ll be feeling well by then.
Once Big Paul is healthy and able to leave quarantine, I will make plans for his “happily ever after.” I will also continue to think about the bigger picture. The other faces that stare out from behind the feedlot fences every single day, all across the country.
Big Paul has stolen my heart and given me a lot to think about. I hope his story makes other people stop to think too.
Stay strong, Paul. Get some rest. Eat your hay. Take your medicine. Know that you are loved.