Steven Spielberg's "War Horse" is shaping up to be a big hit for DreamWorks.
The film tugs on our heartstrings by highlighting the love between a man, Albert, and his horse, Joey — a love so deep that Albert joins the service to get his horse back after it is sold to the cavalry.
But "War Horse" does much more. It reminds us of the role these majestic animals have played in the history of war. Horses were first used in warfare 5,000 years ago, and the cavalry was a cornerstone of warfare during World War I, the war featured in "War Horse."
They were warriors and heroes. But audiences leaving theaters with a newfound appreciation for horses would be saddened to know just how far from grace these once-regaled heroes have fallen.
Today, commoditized by overbreeding to the point of being seen as virtually worthless, horses are sold to slaughter for pennies a pound. Even Thoroughbreds, like Joey, often are sold for nearly nothing. The rest are simply left for dead by their owners, turned out to fend for themselves. Unable to turn our backs on a group of starving and abandoned horses, we founded Red Bucket Equine Rescue in 2009. Some days, the number of horses in the U.S. facing neglect, starvation or impending death seems insurmountable, but we press on — the horses need us and rely on us.
Today we are proud to say that we have saved nearly 100 horses. Many are abandoned, while others are taken from owners desperate to unload their animals because they can no longer afford to care for them.
One hundred may not seem like much on its face, but rescuing, rehabilitating and placing 1,000-pound animals is not easy. It's a complex problem — one that stands to get more complicated in the U.S. now that Congress has lifted its five-year ban on horse slaughter, which allows horses to legally be butchered for human consumption in the U.S.
The problem won't be solved overnight, but educating people on the state of horses today is an important first step to ending the war on horses. Spielberg said, "I also hope this movie brings an awareness to the plight of horses both after World War I and the plight today in a very sad turn of events in which the slaughtering of horses is being permitted for food as a renewed export industry, which makes us all very sad."
We at Red Bucket Equine Rescue could not agree more.
SUSAN PIERCE is president and co-founder of Red Bucket Equine Rescue in Huntington Beach.