Selective Empathy

The annual Stallion Performance testing in Herning is coming up again soon. My friends and I used to go every year, have a nice time, looking at horses, and tack for horses in all shapes and colours imaginable. It always nagged me a little, that by going, by paying entrance, I supported Danish Warmblood, and the way they test their stallions, but I kind of pushed it away. The girls and I used to have fun, after all, it is the horse event of the year, in Denmark… How can one not go?

Well, the more I thought about it, the more I had to realize, that I am not going. Never again. How can one go, really? The young horses, most of them not even three years old, are tested at this event. How can I support that? How can I support that horses this young are broken in and tested? If we allow that, even celebrate it in the sport of dressage, jumping, ordinary games, what is to stop us from ending up on the race track, where two year old horses are ridden and raced openly?

How can I support a breeding federation that breaks in their two year old stallions, so they can be shown as three year olds, even if no one admits to be doing it? We all know it is happening.

I always found it interesting how people tend to pick one thing to rant about and never look at the big picture. I believe that most of my friends will agree, that what goes on at the race track is repulsive and should be stopped. Still, no one cares about the little baby stallions shown in Herning.

I realize that I have been a hypocrite myself, for years, choosing to hunt down rollkur riders, and the race track, and doing everything I possibly could to overlook what I didn’t find convenient to be upset about. Truth is, there are many kinds of abuse, and I am getting sick of supporting any of them.

At long last, I may add.

One may object that the stallions in Herning, the “three year olds,” are not shown while wearing a rider for this particular event. I know that. I know too, that those who pass the not ridden test, will have to pass more than one, ridden test, later on, without the audience, so all the stallions competing in Herning are broken in and ready, just in case they should make it through to the ridden testing. There can be no excuse for that, really, and no justifying it.

I think that as I am getting older, hypocrisy is one of the things that annoys me the most, in others and in myself.

Just like when people claim to love animals, and yet they eat them and by doing so, support a horrible industry, based on abuse, pain and mistreatment of living beings. Or, even better, all those pictures going around face book, of dogs in cages in China, and how people scream about how insane the Chinese are and how it should be stopped, only to go buy themselves a nice burger, not caring that the pig, or the cow, or even the chicken they are eating, had a life that was just as miserable as those dogs. That is hardly loving animals. That is loving SOME animals. The cute, adorable ones.

I realize that most people won’t go vegan, because most people are raised to not care. I was raised to not care. All of my family eats meat and I am shunned at family gatherings, only invited when they absolutely need to, because not eating meat is just too strange.

I just know, that the older I get, the more I realize how animals are treated in this world, the less I want to be a part of it. Any of it. When push comes to shove, I have to answer to only one person. Me. I have to be able to look myself in the eye, and live with the choices I make and the things I support. Performance testing two year old horses cannot be one of those things anymore.

I have to be better than that.

I do sometimes wonder if I am cutting myself off from all the “fun in life.” Not going to Herning, not having this day with my friends, is it worth it, to take a stand? No one is ever going to care if I go or not, my money for my entrance, won’t make a difference in any way. If I don’t go, I do so, for me, and nobody else.

Still, if everyone thinks that not going won’t make a difference, then it won’t. Just like if no one cares that little pig babies are killed by having their brains smashed against the floor, nothing will ever change.

Thing is though, it is in all of us to change. I can’t change my friends, or the way the farmers treat their animals, and I can’t make Danish Warmblood let their stallions grow up before they break them in, but I sure as hell can stay away from it all.

One person hardly ever makes a difference, but all I can change is myself. Maybe someday, more people will realize what is happening, and stay away as well. Maybe then, if we are really lucky, animal welfare might mean something for horses, pigs, chickens and cows, as well as for dogs and cats and cute and cuddly animals.

Why am I writing this post? Well, mostly because my friends think I am just being annoying and cross, when I don’t want to go. Secondly, because when people try to defend the way farmers treat their animals, my head implodes. Yes, stallion performance testing seems like child’s play, in comparison, and maybe my skin is too thin these days. So be it.

I never really chose to be a vegetarian, the idea of eating animals always repulsed me. I stopped when I was six years old, much to my mother’s dismay. Turning vegan, is a choice, sort of. With enlightenment, comes responsibility.

Not going to Herning, is a choice. Not supporting animal abuse of any kind, yes, that is a choice.

Empathy, however, is not something you are born with. It has to be taught. Perhaps I was taught too well. Sadly, most people seem to have been not taught at all. Or, to have been taught, selectively. That, more than anything else, is beyond me.

Maybe someday, when I grow a lot older, I will understand it…


About Starstone

-Owned by horses. Writer, Photographer, Director, Musician.
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