Two contrasting clips start this decade, and finish the last. LVMH, Louis Vuitton Moet Henessy who are apparently purveyors of bags and drugs to the rich and famous, sponsored a bunch of artists who have put out a video nasty of a polo player and his horse. In the second, a couple of photographers, Jason and Helen Florio were interviewed on Radio 4’s Excess Baggage about walking through Gambia with a couple of rescue donkeys hauling all their equipment.
The Louis Vuitton Moet Henessy video by a bunch called Nowness, is sick on so many levels, yet the tragedy is that the macho character “riding” the horse, would argue he loves his horse, and he is telling the truth. At 1 minutes and 16 seconds into the symphony of pain, he nearly caresses the horses neck with his fingertips but thinks again, and doesn’t.
Matthew Donaldson films Nacho Figueras, polo player and Ralph Lauren model, on what is apparently one of his favourite horses, and it makes you want to pray for the horses that aren’t his favourites, but then again, men who beat up women pick the women they “love”, to pulp.
I am sure most of “civilised” society will be able to watch this video and admire the quality of the horse, the quality of the man, and avoid noticing the sickness of the performance. Or maybe this is the equestrian equivalent of that Noble Rot that produces the greatest of the sweet wines, the hint of rot that defines the taste of really high game. But however delicious the result if picked at exactly the right moment, it is only a matter of hours before the rot is obvious and you have spoiled and unusable grapes, or a deliquescing corpse on the game larder floor.
For those who like the hint of rot, Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy are apparently the pinnacle. I hope they enjoy their rotten status, their rotten behaviour, and despite two beautiful bodies with beautiful strength and balance, their rotten horsemanship.
The second image is a couple of soundbites from 1.1.2011, Radio 4’s Excess Baggage. A couple of photographers were describing their walking tour around Gambia with only three assistants and two donkeys and a cart. Finding the first week on the main road dusty with all the lorries, they set off into the bush, which was “quite a struggle with the donkey cart”. But it was the donkeys pulling it, so that’s OK.
Their donkeys had been provided by the Gambia Horse and Donkey Trust, and the Florio’s were asked why a Donkey Sanctuary was necessary. Jason Florio claimed it had been set up because “the Gambians have a certain way of dealing with their donkeys which is they are quite severe with them, maybe we can show them they don’t need to beat donkeys to get performance out of them.“
I hope the Gambians don’t look on the internet and find that sanctimonious types who allow the Louis Vuitton Moet Henessy horse abuse video to be made, are apparently the types to set them a good example. Worse still if they find that the crowd who want to teach the Gambians that they don’t need to beat their donkeys, are testing their own children at the age of 10 to see they are happy with a whip and a pony.
Look at Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy’s video and ask yourself if a society that doesn’t just condone, but appears to encourage such behaviour, can lecture anyone on animal welfare.
In fairness, I must let Luis Vuitton Moet Hennessy have the last word.
The description of the function of the Gambian Horse and Donkey Sanctuary is from the the Florio’s Radio 4, 1.1.2011 interview. I can find no evidence that the Gambian Horse and Donkey Sanctuary have ever said anything of the sort. They say their function is to provide access to expert veterinary assistance for people who would not otherwise have access. Exactly the function of the PDSA in England. I am full of admiration for the work and attitudes of the Gambian Horse and Donkey Sanctuary and believe they need our full support.
Simon Mulholland 1.1.2011