Last night, we celebrated my nephews 2nd birthday, family style. As always with family, there is the joy of togetherness, the stress of togetherness, and the conflict of opinions - rarely in the interest of lively debate.
Now most who know me know I am a passionate animal lover, and have been since I was young. I've had kittens born under my bed, puppies born in my closet. I have crossed roads from school to sit on the back of a horse during lunch, and I have walked countless miles for the sake of animals - to see them, help them, and heal them. I have rescue dogs, network to re-home healthy horses sold for meat (because it's easier to do this than be accountable).
I am a profound and deep believer in human rights, in every person's abilities, and in the value of life. All life. I believe life is something that should be respected, revered, and protected. It is also something, I believe, that should be managed humanely, compassionately, and lovingly.
And, I put my money, my time, and my convictions, where my mouth is. So to speak.
I am a strong advocate of the animal-human bond, which I believe, beyond a shadow of a doubt, does and will heal people, will help heal the planet. and is something which, as the top of the food chain, we need to get right if we are going to survive.
So we are were discussing War Horse, a fantastic production, full of puppetry and magic. As most people know, War Horse brings to light the plight of the many animals who were casualties of World War 1. As we discussed the play, I shared the following information:
"Did you know that, during the war, 1,000,000 horses went to France, and only 62,000 survived?"
Now to me, this is a pretty staggering statistic. Horses serve. They are non-partisan, and they don't chose to fight for a cause. In World War 1, we needed them. As transport for military personnel, supplies, as fighting partners, and for armaments. 938,000 horses died in man's service, without recognition, without appreciation. Today, dogs die today alongside troops in Afghanistan - those that survive are not valued enough for their service to even earn a flight home by the military. Instead, they are to be abandoned in Afghanistan because they are no longer of value. These horses, these dogs - they are not just "hanging out" waiting for a walk, a cuddle, or so we can "play around with ponies." They provide real, valuable service in man's honour, and in support of man's survival.
"Who cares how many horses died! How many people died?"
The answer to this, which I was not able to pull out of my hat, is this:
World War 1 saw the highest casualties of any war. Approximately 65 million peopled fought. 6.8 million military personnel died in action, another 3.2 million died of diseases like the Spanish Flu. Approximately another 7 million civilians died. Somewhere in the number of 20 million military personnel were wounded (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_War_I_casualties). While the actual numbers can likely be debated, a short answer would be a lot.
I care how many horses died. And to the USA, I'd like to add "man up and be accountable. Man or animal, bring all who serve home with respect and dignity."
It is incredibly sad that we kill each other for money, resources, for political or religious beliefs. As the average man, we chose to be the victims of a propaganda machine designed to make a few people or countries very wealthy. It sucks that we kill each other. And it really sucks that we have to kill everything else too. We are the top of the food chain. Do we really believe it is acceptable to use other animals as grist in our political and monetary mills, to reap the benefits they provide, and then condone casually casting them aside when they are no longer useful or convenient, when they need, and to devalue their contribution in the process.
I think not.