3.8
March 24, 2013

Video of Horse Shooting Sends Message to Animal Activists. {NSFW}

The only way to bring about change is to soften. Even if, especially if, it’s really hard.

This week I came across the below video. It follows Tim Sappington, a former employee of the Valley Meat Company in Roswell, New Mexico, as he shoots and kills a horse.

I found it through one of the animal activists I follow on Facebook. If you choose to watch it, know that it’s graphic and contains profanity.

If you don’t want to watch it, here’s a description of the video from the Albuquerque Journal:

“In a 51-second video posted to YouTube, Sappington leads a brown horse by a rope to a spot in a dirt road next to a trailer. After briefly stroking the horse’s nose and then its neck, he says, “All you animal activists, (expletive) you,” pulls a handgun from its holster, places it against the horse’s forehead and fires a single shot.

The horse appears to leap involuntarily into the air, its legs curling beneath it, and crashes to the ground. Sappington turns to glare briefly at the camera and then walks away, saying, ‘Good.'”

{Warning: NSFW}

 

Valley Meat Company, where Sappington worked, is trying to become one of first horse slaughter plants to re-open in the United States. They plan to slaughter horses for the consumer market.

Sappington claims he killed the horse for his own consumption. But animal activists, who are opposed to the re-opening, claim it was an act of violence meant to intimidate and belittle their cause.

And with Sappington’s words, I tend to agree.

My first reaction to this video was devastation. After seeing it I spent the better part of an evening crying.

My second reaction was disillusionment and a lot of questioning—I don’t understand what happens in the human psyche to make a person do something like this.

My third reaction was to send a massive “Fuck You” to Sappington.

But none of these reactions made me feel any better. Which left me wondering—how can we, as mindful individuals, best respond to things like this?

On Friday morning I read the following Facebook update from the site where I found the video:

“You want to shoot a beautiful, healthy horse in the head at point blank range just to try and hurt animal activists? Well let me tell you this asshole, we have names, we have voices, we have votes, we have power and we are a million strong … Fuck you Tim Sappington.”

It’s true—this activist and his followers do have voices, votes and power. Since the video has been brought to light, animal activists have been all over it. Now law enforcement is involved and it looks like charges will be brought against Sappington.

I’m grateful for this, and for the people willing to make a stink and bring this man to justice.

And yet I was put off by the message. I didn’t like its hateful tone.

I realized then that my hate toward Sappington isn’t the right thing either.

It didn’t make me feel any better. And it won’t change anything.

I’ve followed this activist on Facebook for a while and believe in the work he’s doing. He’s bringing greater awareness to animal welfare issues. And he’s unapologetic about it—he stands up for what he believes in and doesn’t care what anyone thinks. If it weren’t for him I wouldn’t know a lot of the things I know about animal welfare issues.

But I’m not sure we can meet hate with hate.

You’ll never get someone to see your point of view, or look deeply into their own, by first spewing negative energy at them. None of the progress made this week was because of of name calling or sending ill will toward Sappington. It was because of the action many people took in getting the word out and getting the right authorities involved.

When I said my fuck you to Sappington I meant it—deeply and truly from the depths of my broken heart. Then the tears dried and I was left wondering what to do next.

But I’ve known all along what to do next, I just didn’t want deal with it.

I need to empathize with and send compassion to Sappington.

I need to send him love and hope that whatever is broken inside him, whatever caused him to kill that innocent horse in such a hateful way, can be mended.

I haven’t been able to do this yet.

I’m struggling to forgive him, and the countless other humans who do terrible things to our innocents, our voiceless, our defenseless. I’m somewhere in hate/compassion purgatory.

When we are hit with something painful or something we can’t understand, our reaction is often to get angry. We want to fight back and make it feel right again.

But we can’t let our hearts harden. The only way to bring about change is to soften. Even if, especially if, it’s really challenging.

How?

We find our way to compassion by doing things like this, and reading things like this.

In recent years it’s taken a lot of hurt and disappointment for me to see how my anger toward people and events only hurts me—not them.

When we send hate out into the world, it only serves to keep that energy going.

“When we harden our heart against anyone, we hurt ourselves.” ~ Pema Chodron

Lately I’ve been trying to define my boundaries and my place in animal activism. I’m not sure where the line is between speaking up for those who can’t speak for themselves and respecting other people’s right to choose their own way.

It’s difficult. How can I be the voice for the voiceless if I don’t say anything? But how can I reach people if I spew hate at them?

I can’t.

And neither can any of us. Whether your cause is climate change, local farming or gun control, no one is going to listen to what you have to say if you first put up a barrier and shout profanities at them.

There is a better way.

What Sappington did was horrific. But wishing the worst upon him and calling him names will not change it for the next horse.

We want people like Sappington to change, to see animals the way we do and to stop being assholes.

But we have to stop being assholes too. It’s all connected—hate is hate, love is love. What we are and how we choose to react is what we send out into the world.

So this time, even though I don’t want to, I will choose differently. I know that in all of us there is something hurting. And the only way to heal that hurt is to live with an open heart and find peace in the present.

I won’t ever be okay with what Sappington did. But I hope someday soon I can find it within me to forgive.

 

 Like elephant animal rights on Facebook.

 

Ed: Kate Bartolotta

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