New Coursing Book

To See Them Run: Great Plains Coyote Coursing, with text by Utah folklorist Eric Elaison, splendid photos by Scott Squire, and a long introductory essay by me, is finally out from the University Press of Mississipi… and about time! Our efforts have seen us, for about five years (more?) right through a couple of academic presses and out the other side, as Plains coyote coursing was seen as too retrograde for modern audiences, or, even sillier, presses demanded material on non- existent “Native American Coursing”. (A quote: “I was leading my greyhound and whippet. As I passed two Native Americans, my wife, who was following, saw them pointing at the dogs and saying ‘there goes dinner’.”

It is a really beautiful “Coffee Table Book” AND a thoughtful text– a great gift for hunters and students of dogs and the Old Ways, for Christmas or birthdays. I can truthfully say we are all proud of it as well as relieved that it is finally a book. I will add more photos later but wanted to get this post out. One complaint: Amazon will not let me list it under my name, on my page, although those who have introduced my books routinely list them on their Amazon pages. Perhaps a word to the publisher?

Links 1

I have many I have been saving, some worth your time, some that just caught my eye An example of the second is this horrifying skeletal “bird”, aptly titled “Epic Bird Anatomy FAIL”:

Love those feather bones..

On the serious front, we have more dispatches from the front lines of the AR fascists’ attempts to make us cease all contact with our animals, from the invaluable and necessary Bedlam Farm blog. “We”,  ie the side of sanity, won the first battle for the continuing existence of the New York Carriage horses, but can we be complacent? Jonathan Katz says no.

He also revisits the larger issue here; whether it is possible to have a traditional relation with an animal, say WORKING, in our society. I would have thought he was being paranoid, but after belatedly reading Ted Kerasote’s latest, Pukka (review TK) I learn that a large majority of urban Americans think that ALL dogs must be spayed and neutered. Where do these mooncalves think that dogs COME FROM?

A quote from Bedlam Farm:

” The truth is that American dogs live the best lives of any animals in
the world, very few of them suffer and die at the hands of abusive and
uncaring owners…

” We are moving towards a kind of quarantine for dogs, increasingly
sealed off from the opportunity to socialize them, to give them varied
and stimulating lives, to accompany us in our travels, be appreciated by
other people. Dogs deserve better than to be isolated only in homes and
backyards because society does not permit us to take any risks with
them.”

Eleanora’s falcons have always been thought  strange. Island – nesting relatives of the European Hobby, they resemble little Peregrines with big wings. They live on Medterranean islands, and breed during the FALL passerine migration to Africa, using that bounty to fuel their reproduction.

 Now it appears that they keep “prisoners” in a larder as well. Please forgive format– it came out this way:

“…the falcons keep or
‘imprison’ some preys in a relatively deep cavity or in a fissure of
rocks from where they can’t escape as their flight feathers (both tail
and wings feathers) were already pulled out …
Or by keeping them trapped in a tight and deep hole which makes them
unable to move neither their wings nor their hanging legs…

“The authors reported
also that this behaviour can occur even before the eggs hatch, and was
already well known to a local fisherman who is staying in the
archipelago in a more or less regular basis for decades…”

Read, as they say, the whole thing.

Last before dinner: a relative, a wild Eurasian Hobby, flies down a Swift . That we have not yet mastered such flights, apparently done easily in the Old Days, should suggest we don’t know everything yet…

Carriage Horses Redux, and a Win…

Another essential dispatch from Jon Katz at Bedlam Farm.

“No one really knows how many millions of dollars NY Class, PETA, and a
coalition of animal rights groups have spent trying to mobilize public
support for the carriage horse ban and bullying the members of the City
Council to pass the mayor’s carriage horse ban…

“In the last week alone, these groups have mailed out hundreds of
thousands of glossy color posted sized pieces showing dead horses (some
of them from New York, some from elsewhere) to people for days in a row.
They are organizing expensive phone channeling telephone calls from all
over the country. They are following carriage drivers with video
cameras, trying to catch them violating city regulations, they have
hired private detectives to follow them, they have released a series of
videos on you tube, and enlisted various naive and poorly informed
Hollywood stars who think they are being hip and progressive.

“They have established a network of blogs and fund-raising websites
using photographs of dead and injured horses, most from unknown places
outside of New York to raise tens of millions of dollars from people who
believe they are saving or rescuing animals, rather than sending them
off to languish or die..

“The animal rights groups have organized hundreds of demonstrators –
some  paid – to gather at the carriage horse lines in Central Park, hand
out thousands of pamphlets, intimidate children, tourists and horse
lovers, to shout insults at the carriage drivers and call them
murderers, to secretly tape them in the hopes of catching them saying
something controversial or angry.

“… The next chapter in this
disturbing drama will be – should be – to stop the intimidation,
harassment and abuse of the carriage trade, it is unconscionable that is
occurring, and that the city government appears to be supporting it…  The animal rights ethos has become in some ways a fascistic, not a
progressive one. Its targets are the poor and the working class. It
despises the democratic process, and it dehumanizes it’s targets and
treats them in ways that are beyond the pale of a democratic and civil
society.”

The carriage trade is considering  lawsuit. I would not be optimistic about this but for a strangely parallel suit won by environmentally conscious ranchers against the so- called Center for Biodiversity (do NOT confuse with the scholarly Berry Center for Biodiversity at U Wy Laramie, run by my friend Carlos Martinez del Rio– I mean the one down here run by the former grad student in literature from Long Island, the one that seems to harass good ranchers as though it were a personal feud). A rancher named Jim Chilton has a 25,000 acre lease in Arizona where his environmental practices have been praised by a team of independent researchers who studied the land for six years, among others.

Unimpressed, the CDB stepped up their campaign of “psychological warfare” to drive him off the land, one that included outright lies and photographs of stripped ground that turned out to be a Forest Service parking lot. The result, according to Ted Williams of Fly Rod and Reel (not online yet I think) was that “… Chilton then took CBD to court, winning $100,000 for harm to his reputation and $500,000 in punitive damages… this is the only time an NGO has been successfully sued for libel.”

Go get ’em!

Links I: Feathers and Carriage Horses

…which I have been neglecting. With a book deadline and one for a big article not too far away, the impending operation, and things like four- hour “Neurological Psychology” tests, these more than one hundred miles away– I won’t burden you further, but I can be distracted.

But: FEATHERS.

I an a bit disappointed that not one “Mainstream” reviewer of the new “Jurassic” film has remarked on its featherless lizards. Not even my favorite and most erudite reviewer, Anthony Lane at the New Yorker- he is no scientist, and DID write the funniest one, but I unfairly expect him to know everything.

You all know what I am going to say next: FEATHERS. As Brian Switek blogged, ” A Velociraptor without feathers isn’t a Velociraptor!” Perhaps the paradigm has not shifted yet. Continue to spread the meme with such portraits as John Conway’s, above…

Don’t forget the New York Carriage horses either; their struggle against Animal Rights activists and New York’s remarkably obtuse (stupid?) mayor deBlasio  is symbolic of the one everywhere that pits owners of working animals against those who want to end all human- animal work and relations. Jon Katz at Bedlam Farm does a good job on this and much else,  but I am surprised this isn’t a constant national story. The statistics are revealing; all the city’s papers are in favor of keeping the horses, as are 70% of the people. I don’t know why this ridiculous and heartbreaking controversy wasn’t settled in favor of the horse drivers long ago.

Jon: “I have assembled some quotes from just a handful of the people who have,
unlike the mayor and a single member of any animal rights group in New
York City, come to New York to see the horses and examine them and their
lives. The mayor has never talked to any of these highly regarded and
experienced people, never considered a word they have said, never called
them up or invited them to visit. Every week, animal rights activists
and real estate developers seeking to ban the carriage trade hold their
press conferences, march in the streets, shout at the carriage drives,
taunt the horses, parade into City Hall to meet with the mayor and his
aides to plan their campaign to banish the horses….

“The Central Park Conservancy, credited with restoring the park after decades of neglect, opposes the
mayor’s plan to replace the carriage horses with electric cars, saying
the plan is “unsafe” and will increase congestion in the park, already
struggling to accommodate 40 million visitors a year. The horses, says
the conservancy, are a natural part of the park’s history.

“Buck  Brannaman, one of the world’s most respected horses
trainers, author of “The Faraway Horses” and the inspiration for the
movie “The Horse Whisperer”:

“Pulling carriages on rubber-rimmed wheels on paved streets
is a low-stress job, and the horses are calm and relaxed, not anxiously
laying their ears back or wringing their tails. Plus, these horses get
lots of attention and affection from passersby. And horses love
attention and affection as much as we do.

“Famed biologist Jared Diamond:

“Draft horses are “the most domesticable
animals in the world for life in urban areas.” They tolerate noise and
disruption, other species they are gentle, they stay close to one
another, they attach to people, they are genetically extraordinarily
well suited to work with people in urban environments.

Katz:

“None of these people or organizations have been questioned by the
mayor, or been invited to participate in the discussion on the future of
the carriage horses. The debate there is harsh, dishonest and
unknowing, shaped by unfounded accusations and unsupported prejudices.
The leaders of our greatest city – and many journalists there –  have
lost any understanding of the real world of real animals, the debate
over the carriage horses could not possible be lower, more corrupt or
unknowing.

“Virtually none of the people seeking to ban the horses – garage
builder Steven Nislick, head of NYClass, the animal rights group
spearheading the ban effort; mayor deBlasio, who has never owned a dog;
the president of the New York City Council, who has two rescue cats; or
the leaders of any of the animal rights organizations involved has any
training or qualifications in equine medicine, training or behavior. Yet
they have dominated the discussion in the city, and shaped the media
coverage of the issue, so important to the future of animals in our
world.

We owe it to the earth to keep animals in our every day lives,
especially when they are fortunate enough to be needed, loved, and so
well cared for. We have a shared responsibility for the people and the
animals in the world. If you are so moved, please write the mayor and
tell him so: Mayor Bill deBlasio, New York City Hall, City Hall Park, N.Y., N.Y., 10007.

Links…

Serious stuff, really.

Jonathan Katz at Bedlam Farm Journal has been carrying a pretty heavy load by being the point man on the controversy, almost entirely fabricated by those who know nothing about animals, over banning the Central Park carriage horses. (If animals needed psychologists, those horses would be happy; as Freud knew, love and work are the necessities for a sane life). In the last month, he lost two of his animals to old age and decrepitude. Only others who love animals (most Animal “Rights” people don’t know or love them, as has been obvious in this debate) will understand his grief. But, I am happy to report, he continues to think.

First, from one of his recent essays, “A Simonless World” (links aren’t working but you can find it on his blog) , a passage  where he paused in his sorrow to contemplate the peculiar attitude that the culture seems to be making about animals these days:

“Last week, five or six people came up to me at different times and
told me about their dogs – this happens to me daily – and each one told
me their dogs were abused. I always ask why they say that, and they give
me reasons like this: the dog is afraid of moving lights, the dog is
afraid of men with big sticks, the dog is shy around loud noises, the
dog is afraid of trucks and buses.

 “There are so many reasons why dogs might behave that way – breeding,
litter experience, issues with the mother, encounters with dogs and the
outside world. Abuse is actually the least likely for most dogs.

“Something in the life of contemporary Americans calls them to need to
see animals as abused and piteous and dependent creatures. I think it
makes us feel valued, worthy, even superior to other people.  We are a
fragmented, tense and disconnected people in many ways, animals give us
something to feel better about. Abuse is real, it is a crime, but I
sometimes think it seems that every dog in America was abused, and I am
always drawn to wonder why it is that people need to take ordinary
animal behavior and transform it into narratives of human cruelty and
mistreatment… We no longer see them as
partners, but as pathetic wards and helpless beings.  I don’t think it
is good for animals to view them through such a narrow prism.”

The late philosopher and dog trainer (and poet) Vicki Hearne used to say that Animal Rights activists could only envision two roles for animals: cute and abused. In the intervening years I can see a second: dead. GRATEFUL dead, and I don’t mean the band. There is a little philosophical movement lurking about that scares the crap out of me, that says with Jeremy Bentham and certain odd Buddhists that absence of suffering is paramount, that things like carnivory must be remedied, and if it isn’t then everything from re- engineering carnivores’ genomes to ending our species to ending life is justified. I do suspect they are a small group, but I hope they never get hold of a weaponized virus…

Again, my old post defending coursing dogs, or any dog with a job, might be worth a look. As is this surprisingly sympathetic portrait of coursing coyotes in Oklahoma from the NYT. Of course, people are trying to shut that down too, as they did the legal wolf hunt with hounds in Wisconsin. Look at the contrast the clever NYT writer made between the solicitous hunters, who like most of us sustain large vet bills every year, and the AR activist who claims we leave wounded dogs in the field to die (yeah, I know that is unbelievable…)

And a slight swerve: an essay by an anti –gunner who admits without condescension that there are enormous divisions between people of good will over guns, even in Sandy Hook families that lost members to that crazed shooter, and castigates the familiar anti- gun tropes that insist all Americans want gun control or, worse, that those of us who oppose it are ignorant, bigoted,  etc– name your cliche, and see that ass Liam Neeson, who has probably made more money off at least the image of guns than I have. I do not agree with her, but I get the sense we could have a conversation…

Ancient coursing dog photo:

Carriage horses: the battle begins

I should have said– and will now– to check in just in case something that is actually important comes up. I would not brag that most of what is reported here is important in the grand sense– but my defense of animal- human bonds, the “Old Ways”: partnerships, “jobs”, memes– IS. I helped push back the AR tide when they tried to ban coursing in California. The good guys won that one, however temporarily.

But now, a more visible and symbolic fight has commenced for real in New York. A blinkered urbanite might be forgiven for misunderstanding dogs that chase jacks and their human partners. But more than sixty percent of New Yorkers, three newspapers, an actor (Liam Neeson), a horse trainer (Buck Brannaman), and just about everybody but the most self righteous and resentful Animal Rightsers and a few dubious real estate developers–oh, and the silly playpen Marxist mayor who won his office when only 26 percent of the electorate voted, who did so with the money of said developers (the stables are prime real estate), and who is a “strong Animal Rights activist” who has never owned an animal of any kind, but who tells the little kid of one of the horse drivers that his father is “immoral”, while refusing to meet the drivers; a “man of the people” who says that his administration’s highest goal and priority is to take away the livings of working people who have never been accused of a single act of cruelty…

The battle is joined: Read Jonathan Katz here for a good summary;if you subscribe to him he will keep you up to date. Then join us in sending some funds to the drivers here.

If the screaming fanatics of AR win this one, no city animal will be safe.  A lot of country friends forget that, a few years ago, Albuquerque animal activists tried to enforce draconian dog regs that slipped by in Albuquerque to the rest of our very rural and western state (ban on more than two dogs, rigorous permits including no in- house litters, on- site inspections, and huge fees to breed, and apparently only AKC purebreds).  They want a war, they have a big war chest– check out HSUS– and believe they can win it, while the carriage drivers only want to live in peace. If they want to play ISIS to our border fortress, our Kobani, let us be as brave as the Kurds. Stop them in New York before they knock on your door.

OK, a little humor. Mayor DiBlasio claims he is a “Marxist”. He says so; I am not red-baiting him. If we must have Marxists, let them be like this iconic one. Here he is shooting birds in exile in the Caucasus in 1926 (next stop Kazakhstan, where he mostly hunted birds with his dog for two years); with his rabbits, in lonelier exile in Mexico; and big- game fishing a la Hemingway off Mexico, shortly before the traitorous “Ramon Mercader”, who had insinuated himself into Trotsky’s trust,  sneaked up behind him and put an icepick in his head (if you think I am comparing that sleazy Stalinist hit man to “the coward Robert Ford”, of course I am!).

The New York Carriage Horses

Jon Katz is doing such a serious, informed, and fundamental service in documenting what may turn out to be the landmark Animal Rights case of our time* that anyone who breeds, trains, or otherwise is involved with all our ancient ways and “memes” of human- animal interaction should subscribe to Bedlam Farm Journal and get it in their box every morning (and there is a lot of beauty, humor, and poignancy as well, not just his continuing defense of the horses and their owners– Jon’s animals, his recovery from open- heart surgery, his photos, and more).

My own battles so far were helping the California coursers, and I think my best column helped (though meanwhile we lost an important fight in Albuquerque, our own back yard, on breeding dogs). Those interested in the coursing column, which I think contains enough material of more than local interest that I plan to recycle it in my dog book, can find it here.

But the most important public battle over us and our animals is going on now. One group of people has the whole of history, of human and domestic animal evolution, training, learning, adaptation, work, and even love on its side (though like many “animal people” or country folk they may not be able to articulate it like members of the chattering classes). The other side consists of a Marxist, uninformed, callous mayor (and I feel bad about insulting Marxists here– photos of Trotsky and his dogs suggest that even Marxists usually know more about dogs than DiBlasio– all right, he is Italian too, and I hang my head in shame); a billionaire real estate developer; and, because Manhattan is just MORE than other places, some of the most unhinged, hysterical, fanatical, and near- violent Animal Rightsers in the United States. They have lied outright; DiBlasio sounds positively Aspergian every time he opens his mouth (he told a child of one of the carriage drivers that his father was “immoral”). They seem to think that killing the horses would be better for them than letting them work; the mayor seems to think that a godawfully expensive electric vehicle would be a more “environmental” solution; can you see tourists, maybe a couple coming to the city for their honeymoon, stepping into a romantic scaled- up golfcart to drive through central Park?! As  somebody said (who? — and Magdalenians please refrain from saying “Tom Kelly”!), only an educated fool could possibly believe something like that.

Against that, we have the thoughtful essays of Jon Katz, who has written a couple of them every week on the subject, full of old- style wisdom and kindness. Read him if you care about the Old Ways, as I suspect most of the readers here do. Here are a couple of thoughts from October 11 “What are People For?”:

“In New York City, hundreds of people live in fear and uncertainty as the future of the carriage trade is suddenly in doubt because a millionaire real estate developer decided it is abuse for horses to work.The carriage drivers have been the victims of almost continuous and slanderous assault and cruel condemnation and abuse for years while the mayor who seeks to end their work and way of life refuses to even speak to them in the name of being humane to animals…

“Countless animals suffer every week in America as the movement that calls itself a protector of animal rights claims  that people are not fit to live with animals, care for them, or deserving of help in keeping them. Everywhere – in farmer’s markets, on pony rides, in carriage horses, circuses, movie sets, agricultural schools, small farms, private homes – it is becoming too complex, controversial, expensive or complicated to own and keep and work with an animal, especially those that are not pets. Animals are disappearing everywhere, just as the carriage horses will disappear if they are banned from New York City…

“Is there dignity and compassion in losing one’s livelihood, in being publicly and cruelly dehumanized. Is our goal to remove animals from the lives and consciousness of human beings?  The horses are awakening us to understand that there is much work to be done, those of us who love animals have abandoned them to the awful fate of having their fates decided by people who hate people. When we dehumanize people, we dehumanize ourselves, when we dehumanize ourselves, we cannot possible build a world that is humane to animals. Compassion is not selective, we don’t get to choose who deserves it, we either offer it or we do not…

“Animals can only thrive in partnership with people, without animals people are broken and disconnected from their lives, their past and the world. We cannot be compassionate for animals as we become increasingly cruel to people.

“If you want to be happy,” says the Dalai Lama, “practice compassion.” Do we really wish for the unhappiest people in our world to decide the fate of animals?”

New York Carriage horses and their enemies

Like Joel Katz of Bedlam Farm Journal, I think that the case of these horses, well- kept but attracting the attention and money of —  I can’t soften it,  deranged animal “Rights” activists,  possibly backed by the money of cynical real estate interests– is emblematic of our “rather stupid time” (Ortega), and a preview of what every one of us who lives with ancient human- animal memes– dog breeders, houndsmen, pigeon racers, falconers, sheep herders, ranchers, dog trainers– faces. Name it– there is some fanatic in a city near you who has never kept, never mind bred or worked with, any animal, and that person  is determined to take your animal away and “rescue” (or kill) it,  to at best, a puzzled life behind bars with no work.

Some recent Jon Katz; first from September 16

“Have you ever been absolutely hated by an animal rights
activist? I mean HATED so much that they wish to obliterate your very
existence. HATED so much that they vow to destroy you and your kind no
matter what it costs, monetarily or in decency? HATED so much that your
very humaneness and your families identity and legacy and traditions and
whatever else you hold sacred and dear are threatened with a campaign
to destroy any trace of your existence? What is it about this kind of
activism done in the name of loving animals, that loathes humankind to
the point of what appears to be utter insanity?”

And this, from yesterday

“The next thing that surprised was learn that the campaign against the
carriage horses was not  a debate about the horses, or an argument
about animal welfare or the future of animals in the urban world. It was
an ideological assault – personal, brutal and relentlessly cruel –
against the people who owned and drove the horse carriages. To
understand this unnecessary controversy, it is first essential to
understand that. It has always been about attacking and dehumanizing the
drivers, who have been called thieves, torturers, abusers, immoral,
callous, greedy, liars and inhuman or less than human beings.

“This is always the language of hate, the precursor to persecution,
the ugly advance work necessary to demonize people to the point that
their freedom and property can be taken away by the so-called moral
community around them. Earlier this year, one of the gentlest and most
beloved of the carriage drivers approached the mayor at a public event
with his young son. He asked the mayor why he was do determined to ban
the horses, and the mayor said “because your work is immoral.” He said
this right in front of his son, and then turned away. He did not speak
of the horses, he spoke of the character of the people who drive them.

“There it was, from the mayor’s mouth to our ears. It is about the
people, not the animals. The story has never been about the welfare of
animals, not one animal on the earth will lead a better or safer life if
the carriage horses are banished to rescue farms and slaughterhouses.”

This not young photographer, recovering from open heart surgery and for no reason but that he understands working and domestic animals and can see and think and feel, is the most eloquent defender of our Old Ways on the web. I check him every morning, and you should too. Thanks, Jon, and keep up the good fight.

UPDATE in progress. I am writing this out of saved material.  Libby informs me that Jon is apparently putting his farm up for sale, as his health is shaky. I hope he continues writing and making beautiful photos, but our hearts are with him whatever he does. His eloquent defense of working animals is something we can mine as long as deracinated urbanites try to deny us contact with (CS Lewis phrase) “other bloods”.

The New York Horses

Jon Katz, despite his recent open heart surgery, is still fighting the good fight for the Carriage horses of Central Park and against the combined forces of AR supporters and the City’s incredibly clueless mayor:

“They are coming for the horses, and they are coming for the ponies and
elephants and working dogs and chickens on farms and so many other
animals who used to live and exist among us. Soon enough, they will be
coming for you, for the animals in your world, for the way in which you
live with them and love them. Soon enough, they will be entering your
world, your life and telling you how to live and taking the animals you
love a way from you and removing them from our lives. It is not a
paranoid fantasy, it is here. It is the life of every carriage horse
owner and driver and every horse today in New York. It is happening
right now.”

I think he is right, and it is that serious. The mayor, who has steadfastly refused to even MEET the horse owners, says he may move this week. Add your voice and whatever else you can…

Quote

“If the people who own pets do not come to understand the natural world and the true lives of animals, there will be no animals but pets. I share this so that others might learn from it and benefit from our experiences, not to be lectured by people without boundaries. All animals are not pets, they are not furbabies and child surrogates, some live in a different world, they are a different nation. They get sick, are eaten, they fall and die.

“Farms are not rescue facilities, nursing homes or assisted care housing.”

Jon Katz, Bedlam Farm Journal.