February 14, 2012

Doris Implores Us to Save the Horses

By Doris Day

Few iconic images in American film have withstood the test of time as well as the cowboy (or cowgirl) sitting atop a horse. From The Great Train Robbery in 1903 to last year's Cowboys & Aliens, Hollywood adores this truly American symbol. I'm honored to be among the ranks of actors who have been immortalized in the saddle-John Wayne, Clint Eastwood, Steve McQueen, Jane Fonda, and Robert Redford, to name a few.

The horses in our films embody the heritage, freedom, and spirit of America, evoking in our citizens a sense of the loyalty, power, and beauty they represent as part of our shared cultural DNA. It's no coincidence the Western is a uniquely American film genre-as a nation, we are fiercely proud of our past as a new land to be discovered and tamed. So it's no coincidence the horse is a uniquely American icon. After all, our Wild West was explored and won from the backs of horses.

Many images illustrate the bond between a cowboy and his steed-the horse carrying his wounded hero to safety, the horse galloping beside a train so his rider can bravely leap aboard, and, of course, the cowboy and his horse riding off into the sunset. Not once in American film will you witness the cowboy roasting his horse on a spit over the fire, or cowboys and cowgirls gathered around the chuck wagon asking which horse was made into tonight's stew. Nowhere in our culture is the horse pictured on a hamburger bun.

Film classics like National Velvet, Seabiscuit, Black Beauty, The Horse Whisperer, and this year's War Horse have captured our hearts. Outside of Hollywood, horses have always been a source of companionship and joy for Americans. Horses are members of the family, trusted companions, and partners in labor, recreation, and sport. Our historical military heroes nearly always appear proudly mounted atop their regal steeds, whether on canvas or in stone statues.


We share something else in this country: A belief that some animals are not food. We don't eat dogs. We don't build canine slaughter plants to export dog meat. We don't eat cats or build plants to process them into meat in shrink-wrapped packages. Horses deserve no less.

Yet, some persist in condemning these magnificent animals to a horrible death in a slaughter plant. The disreputable, predatory slaughter industry gathers up our loyal and trusting companions only to turn them into meat exports for profit. These people have not a thing to do with responsible animal ownership or proper care, nor do they have an ounce of compassion for the graceful creatures they treat with such cruelty. Horses unlucky enough to end up in the hands of these "killer buyers" suffer terribly through transport and slaughter-whether it occurs in the United States or across the border.

We can protect our horses by asking our representatives in Congress to support the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act (S. 1176/H.R. 2966), which would ban the export of horses for slaughter and prevent this despicable industry from reopening in the United States. I join my friends at the Doris Day Animal League and its partner, The Humane Society of the United States, in calling on Congress to pass this legislation to stop American horses from being shrink-wrapped as a delicacy for foreign gourmands.

In America, we don't kill horses for food. We feel a swell of pride when Roy Rogers leaps onto Trigger's back, and the man and his palomino gallop off down a dusty trail. We cheer when Kevin Costner, as John Dunbar, gallops his horse across the front line to turn the battle into a Union victory. We revere horses and their cowboy counterparts as American icons... in film and in life.