Social media — or “new” media as they’re now called — can start revolutions and bring down governments, as they recently did in Tunisia and Egypt.
Twitter, Facebook and blogs are credited with rallying the masses in those two countries, which, in turn, has encouraged democracy minded dissidents throughout the Middle East.
The power of these new tools for the disaffected is confirmed by Hosni Mubarak’s attempt to stop the protests by shutting down the Internet. He failed, and gave up his palace and his power.
But anti-government movements aren’t the only beneficiaries of the blogosphere. Barack Obama used it to get elected, as one example.
Here at home, a pair of wild horses destined for slaughter have found new homes thanks to the power of the social media.
After Daily News reporter Cam Fortems wrote a story about a band of wild — some call them feral, some call them “abandoned” — horses a couple of weeks ago, the social media took over.
His story, and the accompanying pictures, started showing up on blogs all over North America — it went viral, as they say.
It was too late to save the main group of horses from the auction, but a mare and stud didn’t receive clean bills of health in time and are still out at the Campbell Creek stockyards. They were scheduled for auction on Tuesday.
If they’d been sold to so-called “kill buyers” they’d have ended up as meat on somebody’s table. But that won’t be allowed to happen, and the kill buyers probably won’t be happy about it, but a lot of other people will be.
Assisted by a couple of residents “on the ground” here in Kamloops, three rescue groups got involved in the effort to keep the last two horses from being sold off for market.
Critteraid of Summerland, with the support of Kelowna-based TRACS (The Responsible Animal Care Society), offered to take the horses and train them for adoption. A third group, J&M Acres Horse Rescue, said it could take one of the horses if needed.
Ministry of Natural Resource Operations staff pondered the offer over the past few days but it was initially unclear whether existing regulations would allow it.
The Forest and Range Practices Act says seized livestock must either be auctioned or sold “by other means” if no bids are received. Did that allow animals to be handed over to someone before such an auction? If so, did they have to “bought and paid for” by the rescuer?
Those who worked on saving these horses argue that they aren’t livestock at all — since they’re ownerless, unbranded, and living on their own — but wildlife, a designation that would protect them from auction and slaughter.
As such things usually do, the issue landed in the laps of the politicians, and they aren’t blind to the influence of social media either. MLA Terry Lake got the message, loud and clear. So did Steve Thomson, the Kelowna-Mission MLA and Minister of Natural Resource Operations.
Friday afternoon, he revealed that the two horses will be turned over to Critteraid, at no charge, instead of being auctioned off. Not only that, but his ministry will undertake a review of existing regulations and policies with a view to finding a long-term solution.
So, using social media, horse lovers successfully challenged the status quo in a very short period of time — about the same as it took the crowds in Liberation Square to force the Egyptian president out of office.
What’s next? They’ll use social media again, to create a network of horse rescue groups ready and willing to assure that — until they realize their ultimate goal of actually outlawing slaughter — horses seized in future roundups go to good homes instead of to their death.