Horseback Riding and Animal Rights: Can They Ever Be in Harmony?


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Horseback Riding and Animal Rights:
Can They Ever Be in Harmony?
Comments by: Stephen R. Kaufman - 18 Jan 2006

Lisa brought up a good question about how to approach people who care about animals (and may even be vegan) yet ride horses. Some have responded that horse riding need not be exploitative or abusive, and these are valuable insights.

A larger issue is how to approach people without making them feel like we are being condescending or "holier-than-thou." If we make them feel defensive, they will dedicate their efforts to defending their reputation and/or sense of self-esteem, rather than serious consider our point-of-view. My approach is to ask questions and to voice concerns, rather than make blanket condemnation.

For example, I might say, "I wonder whether it causes horses pain or distress to have a person on their back and/or bit in their mouth." In the course of conversation, I might ask, "Wouldn't it hurt to have the bit pulled sharply to one side?"

By analogy, when discussing animal agriculture, I might say, "My understanding is that intensive confinement operations cause a great deal of pain and stress to animals." I have not accused any specific person, and the meat-eater in my presence does not need to plead guilty to cruelty. I can acknowledge, truthfully, that not all animal agriculture is the same. I know of some people who genuinely care about the free-roaming chickens living on their property, treat the chickens well, and collect and eat hen's eggs. These people (who are a small minority of those with farmed animals, of course) are not, in my opinion, treating the chickens with brutality or disrespect. However, if we don't know the source of the food, it is very likely from a factory farm.


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