THE CLAIMS OF BEASTS OF BURDEN.
MISS LINDO'S admirable project, communicated on Monday last to a meeting of ladies and gentlemen, held at the rooms of the " Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals," in Jermyn Street, for establishing a convalescent home for horses,—and, let us hope, with some of the members present,—donkeys and mules also, in or near London, brings before us the very special claims of a class of animals which have hitherto attracted a good deal less of our sympathy than they deserve. The truth is that, whatever may be the case amongst the Arabs, English horses are very much less often the
objects of human friendship than dogs, cats, and birds. Partly, their size stands in the way of that complete domestication which is essential for such friendship, and oddly enough, for a reason which it is extremely difficult adequately to make out, the attendants on horses, who probably feel more active friendship for them than any other class, do not do that credit to their equine companions which one might wish. Horsey men are not generally so admirable as the horses to which they are often heartily devoted. And hence, perhaps, it has hap- pened that the sentiments of friendship with which we of the Western World regard our horses, are not often as thoroughly rooted in our nature, as are the sentiments with which we regard our indoors companions.
And yet what does not man owe to the creatures by which almost as much of the physical work of our modern life is effected, as probably by man himself ? Of course, the loco- motive now transacts for us a greater amount of our physical work than even all the men and all the beasts of burden together can effect. But if all the work of Englishmen and English- women were measured in foot-pounds, that is, in the number of pounds which could be raised through a single foot by the same exertion, and the result compared with the work of our beasts of burden measured in the same way, we do not feel certain, in spite of the vastly greater multitude of hard-worked human beings, which sum would be the greater. And yet nothing is less common than for men to realise adequately what they owe to these mute slaves, who appear to have no conception of abstract rights, and are quite incompetent to organise any agitation for home-rule on their own behalf. Only conceive what London would be if all the horses and donkeys were to die in the night. Even the railways would be comparatively useless. Enormous stores of goods would remain at the terminuses of the various lines, as immoveable as "real property " itself. Even the sus- pension of all cabs for a single day would be bad enough. But how life would be carried on without the tradesmen's carts, without the great vans which carry on the larger traffic, without the hucksters and costermongers who help the poor to what they need, it is impossible to conceive. Yet all this is effected by what in a sense we may call the enslavement of some of the most powerful, most tractable, most sagacious of our fellow-creatures, creatures immensely our superiors in mechanical force, and we sometimes think also, greatly our superiors in mildness and docility of temper, and willingness to endure hardship and to exert themselves at others' bidding. Nothing can be more wonderful,—if only the wonder of the common things of the world could ever be adequately realised,—than the existence of this class of mute labourers of indomitable and more than Titanic strength, which are so submissive to man's training, and which spend all their days in painfully executing our will, without even gaining thanks for their services from any but the more thoughtful and grateful of their masters. If they could present to us a "petition of right," what would they not have it in their power to claim P For hundreds of generations they have done all our hardest work, without any reward except the food necessary to keep them in working order ; and, in case of decay, in the first place, vain and cruel efforts to stimulate them to do what they have lost the power to do, and then, at last, a blow on the head. Surely this good and wise Miss Lindo, who proposes to estab- lish a convalescent home for the poor overworked creatures, nobly as she is distinguishing herself amongst us, ought to have arisen amongst us long ago. We are ready enough,—at least, not ready enough, but very ready,—to establish convalescent homes for onr own race, and yet those who avail themselves of these admirable institutions are seldom indeed without some relatives or friends to nurse them with tender care. But for the poor creatures who do all our hardest tasks for us there are no such caretakers, and when they stand in need of rest and refreshment, there is no one to find it out until the failure of strength brings on some catastrophe, and renders it news-
sary to put the overworked labourer to death. What Miss Lindo proposes is to establish a convalescent home for horses, where they may be properly looked after, and have not only good grazing, but enough corn to keep them in condition, so that after a few weeks' rest, they may be really fit to resume their work. Miss Lindo hopes ultimately to be able to make this convalescent home for horses still more useful by the occasional purchase of horses, not really worn out, but so much in need of rest that their owners may think them worn out, horses which after an adequate interval of rest may be quite up to supplying the place for a few weeks of other animals urgently in need of it. The Society would in that case hire out these horses to the costermongers or other poor tradesmen who brought their own horses for a rest, at a comparatively trifling charge, so that the business of the owner need not be interrupted by the rest which he finds it desirable to give his own horse. This feature of the scheme,—a most valuable one, —will not, however, be immediately possible. At present, the new Society must limit itself to providing,—at a moderate charge, —rest and refreshment for horses in real need of it, and it is believed that the poor owners of horses are so well aware that this would often save the life of a horse and renovate its strength, that they would find it, even from the most selfish point of view, desirable to pay for such an interval of rest and refresh. ment, rather than lose their horse altogether. The plan seems to us in every way satisfactory, and we trust that Miss Lindo, the Honorary Secretary of the Society (who is to be addressed, "care of Manager, Royal Military Riding School, 9 Gloucester Crescent, London, W."), will soon receive so many offers of aid from the public, that an institution which may quickly become in the best sense self-supporting, may be established. Of course, during its infancy it must be sustained by charitable help. But we are persuaded that it might in a very short period recommend itself so strongly to the self- interest of the poorer class of owners of horses and asses, that it would not only become independent of charitable aid, but might even spread itself into widely separated Metropolitan districts, whether in the shape of branches or in mere repetitions of the original institution.
We are well aware that this is an age of increasing sympathy with the lower animals ; sometimes we are even told that it is an age of morbid sympathy with them, though we do not believe that it is so. But certainly if there be anything morbid at all in the sympathy of Englishmen with the lower animals, it is not in the direction of too great a tenderness towards beasts of burden ; it is rather in the direction of supersensitive- ness towards pets to which we sometimes attribute a subtlety and variety of emotion of which they are not really capable. But however this may be, there is no morbid sympathy,—no adequate sympathy,—for the overburdened creatures which are forced, whether they will or not, to do so vast a proportion of our worst drudgery for us. To these at least men are only too apt to act as if they were mere steam-engines, with stomachs in the place of boilers ; and a little of the sympathy which we give (not too liberally) to dogs, cats, birds, squirrels, and other companions of our amusements, ought surely to be reserved for those over- worked slaves by whose help half our necessaries and comforts, and more than half our pleasures, are procured.