Monday, September 22, 2008

Blindingly Obvious

Tonight M and I went to see a screening of the movie Blinders, a film by activist Danny Moss, detailing the inside horrors of the horse-drawn-carriage industry. The website states the following about this documentary:

Through original footage taken with hidden cameras and interviews with carriage drivers, veterinarians, accident witnesses, animal rights activists, politicians, tourists, residents who live near the horses and people who have rescued NYC carriage horses from slaughter, BLINDERS takes viewers behind the scenes to expose the truth behind the tradition.

This film was incredibly powerful, detailing the egregious cruelty that is this industry. It told the stories of the many horses who die from accidents caused by living a work-life they were not meant to live, in an urban jungle that is certainly no home for them. Perhaps one of the most moving moments of this film was seeing a couple of the rescued horses living out their lives peacefully at a sanctuary. My partner says that when talking about these horses, or any other exploited animal, it isn't just about the suffering--it's also about their lack of happiness.

The screening tonight was at a huge movie theatre on the Upper East Side. Hundreds of animal advocates came out for this event. There was press there, interviewing people on line, interviewing the panelists and the organization that hosted this event, The League of Humane Voters NYC--a remarkable (and remarkably effective) political group striving to elect animal-friendly politicians.

The film screening was followed by an open mic, where people were encouraged to ask questions. John from LOHV--a dear friend of mine who I love madly--started out by boasting that just before the film, they had to throw some woman out who was from the horse-drawn-carriage industry. Now, knowing John, it is likely possible that the woman was thrown out because she was abusive and out-of-line...but he didn't mention that part...which made me wonder why the opportunity to have opposition at an event like this wasn't seized, or at least attempted. And if it was attempted, it should have probably been mentioned.

Why is it so hard to get opposition at events like this, anyway? Well, probably partially because they might have to face some truths about themselves...but also partly because of behavior like this:

A woman got the mic and stated that she thinks we should start to get violent. This was after she was going on and on, asking many questions--some of which were good ones, like WHY ON EARTH does this teeny tiny industry have such big power?

Listen, if you're gonna have an open mic, it has to be managed. And when this woman said that she thinks we should get violent, there was not proper intervention there. Yes, I'm angry too. Yes, I get it too. But being violent is just perpetuating the same problem--and it's not fixing anything.

It's really sad and scary to me that there was press there. It's sad and scary to me that the one quote they will take from this evening was that a woman said we should get violent on them, since they are violent on the horses.

Then, this:

A man went to the mic and started screaming about how he is PRO-carriage horses. He was immediately heckled, he was immediately put in his place. He was IMMEDIATELY asked to leave, and security IMMEDIATELY came.

I, for one, was interested in what this guy had to say. And I agree with Yetta Kurland, the civil rights attorney/city council candidate/my friend who said that it was a missed learning opportunity to have that man leave so quickly. He wasn't really doing anything wrong--he was just barking a little. The woman who had just been to the mic who said we should get violent was not asked to leave. This is not a good impression, people!! This is why we get a bad reputation.

Obviously we have a huge gigantic fight ahead of us. But we've made some progress, anyway. In NYC, this is largely due to activists such as John from LOHV who engage people on animal issues. But tonight's "festivities" just took away from the real issues at hand: the exploitation of animals, and how we can EFFECTIVELY work together to REACH PEOPLE in order to effect REAL CHANGE.

I do not have Ahimsa tattooed across my left ankle for nothing.

Click here to get more involved with ending horse-drawn-carriage cruelty, and click here to learn about effective animal activist tactics.