20 May 2008

No appetite for this solution

It says an awful lot about our species, when you consider the way we humans sometimes approach problem-solving: If all else fails, we make the problem go away by eating it.

I used to think this was a uniquely American trait - seeing how many people in the U.S. could easily swap out their stomachs for trash-mashers with little discernible difference - but now I am not so sure our nation has exclusive rights to this kind of bad taste.Here in the States we are in the midst of horse-racing season, and the nation is still reeling from a tragedy on the racetrack immediately following the Kentucky Derby, when the lone filly to run (she finished second!!) sustained a fatal injury and was euthanized on site.

So I was horrified to learn of an even worse fate visited upon a first-place Derby winner back in 1986, a big brown horse named Ferdinand, who was ridden to victory by the legendary American jockey Willie Shoemaker. Ferdinand did not experience similar glory as a stud, and he was something of a failure in Japan too, where his American owners shipped him eventually, for a second try at procreation.
Ferdinand posed a problem - he was now too old to race and he did not produce a new bloodline of future champions. So he was taken to the slaughterhouse in Japan and converted into something edible. And that is how a Derby winner, and the 1987 Horse of the Year, met his end.

I think of Ferdinand now as I read of one solution to Britain's unfortunate influx of aggressive eastern grey squirrels - a non-native species that never asked for such immigration status. They are, for the most part, reviled, hunted and killed because they displace the beloved native reds - and the latest solution is to serve them up on the dinner plate, energizing the local economy, bringing a boon to butcher shops and posing a fun challenge to creative home cooks as well.
I'll have none of that, thank you. It turns my stomach to think we humans, for all our cleverness, have chosen to think with our appetites instead of our minds. We are a sentient species and yet, for all of that, the best we can come up to solve various problems is to slaughter a champion horse (one of many to have met such a fate, I've been assured) and a challenge to creative cooks everywhere to fry up some squirrel.

The worse tragedy here, I fear, is that people really believe this is the best we can do. I'd like to think we as a species can do better. At least I hope and pray we can.


Gregory of Troy said...

Good lord! I've never heard that story of Ferdinand; how terrible!

I do, however, believe it to be an evolutionary trait of ours that a large portion of our lives and actions revolve around food and when we'll find our next meal.

SquirrelGurl said...

The story of Ferdinand is a sad one, HBO just recently did a special report on what happens to some racehorses. But not all retired horses have stories that end sadly... Check out the story of
Colin aka Petersburg Knight . His story could have ended sadly but it didn't...

It saddens me that many people feel the solution to problems is death whether it be the killing of squirrels or the the buffalo near Yellowstone b/c they supoosedly threaten livestock. Why can't we as humans take a step back and look for more "animal friendly" solutions?

Surely they are out there...why not take the time to investigate them?

resqr9142 said...

leaving a comment

Anonymous said...

The true horror is the WAY in which they are killed. Only humans can invent such cruelty to their earth dwelling peers. Every animal deserves respect and where contact is concerned, they deserve LOVE.

Oh geeze.......don't get me started or I'll be unable to stop frettin' and cryin'.

Win Big said...

Hi... I am a racing enthusiast, and an excersize jockey. I just want to say our horses are taken care of better than people. I am guessing you as an animal advocate also understand judgemental opinions on things. Well, for me all I know is that that case of Ferdinand is a rare and unusual case. Plus, if you go into the race tracks you will not find people more dedicated to these animmals. Although I appreciate your opinion. Good luck with the squirrels, you have my vote!

squirrelmama said...

Thanks WinBig, for stopping by. And you are absolutely right, the "Ferdinand" cases are - thank goodness - few and far between. Most of these horses are definitely loved and cared for. My trainer (I ride with her twice a week here in NY) used to work at some of the tracks up here as well as in Florida and she is quite passionate about the sport too - for all the right reasons. (You have an enviable job, by the way, in my opinion.)

taylor said...

i do not like the way you treat horses there in china i think? i have 2 of them and my grandpa was a jockey how rude you send that innocent horse to the slougher house!!!!!

Anonymous said...

I never knew that about Britain !!

I doubt it is being taken seriously, despite what some Tv documentary programmes will have you believe. They had one a short while ago about a group of people who eat road kill.

The reaction to the programme was one of considerable revulsion. They are however, considered pests and "several" years ago at school I and my class mates were offered money for each tail we brought in, but I do not recall ever seeing anyone do so.

Best wishes...