At the recent demonstrations against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, we’ve seen the police riding into the crowds on their horses. The frightened horses have knocked demonstrators in their paths to the ground and trampled them with their hooves. A number of protesters have been injured and a few have had to be taken to the hospital with broken limbs.
Fortunately, the protesters in Israel have not fought back and attacked the horses, as recently happened at Black Lives Matter protests in the United States over the death of George Floyd. At those demonstrations, the protesters didn’t hesitate to attack the horses, throwing objects at them and sand in their eyes to drive them and the police officers riding them away. A large number of horses were injured and taken to veterinary hospitals.
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The horse is a noble, friendly and sensitive animal like no other, and that is able, for example, to help children with special needs. It’s difficult to exaggerate the sensitivity of a horse to people who appear to the horse to be hostile, or the intensity of the suffering caused to horses forcibly brought to demonstrations and other gatherings where horns and megaphones are used, causing them severe distress.
It’s not by chance that the horses used by the Israel Police are not the native breed, known as the Arabian horse. The common domestic breed would be stricken with fear at the sight of the demonstrators. They would get up on their hind legs, throw the mounted police officer off their backs and hightail it out of there.
For use in dispersing demonstrations, Friesian horses known as Belgian Blacks are imported to Israel. They are known to “suffer silently,” even in the face of the threat they face at demonstrations and despite the Middle Eastern heat, to which their body build is not suited, causing them chronic diseases.
As children, we used to go to the circus, where we saw trained dancing bears and ponies jumping through flaming hoops. All that is a thing of the past. The use of trained animals at circuses has been made illegal.
Precisely the same approach should be taken regarding police horses. The use of horses to disperse demonstrators is a cruel remnant of wars of the past and have persisted here from the Ottoman period.
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These poor horses are not a party to disagreements among human beings. There is no justification – and no need – for making use of them in violent incidents that cause them great distress, illness and injury. In the 21st century, the police have technology and an endless number of other means to deal with demonstrators.
Miki Gur is an economic consultant.