26 May

Guess What? Craig Mosher of Is A Hero. And A Lover Of Bulls.

by Jon Katz
Killington Lodge, After Irene
Killington Lodge, After Irene

So it turns out that Craig Mosher is a much-admired local hero in his community.

Farmers across Vermont and animal lovers everywhere are stunned and up in arms over the indictment of Mosher, a Killington excavator and animal lover, and a hero of the recovery efforts following Hurricane Irene. Mosher was indicted by a Grand Jury eight months after a Scottish Highland pet bull – Red – broke through his fence, and was hit by a car. The driver, a 64-year-old part-time resident of the town, was killed, as was his bull.

The man’s wife was injured but survived.

Rutland State Prosecutor Rosemary Kennedy has charged Mosher with involuntary manslaughter, which carries a prison sentence of from one to 15 years. This is believed to be one of the first, if not the first,  time in the country that the owner of an animal was charged with a criminal offense for what has always been considered an unfortunate but inevitable part of owning livestock on pasture or dogs and cats in a house.

Mosher was out looking for his bull when the accident on a busy and well-lit highway near his property.

It turns out that Mosher is a much admired neighbor, animal owner and member of the community. It turns out he is a hero, in fact. In 2011, Hurricane Irene devastated Vermont and cut off people in Killington and other communities. Thousands of people, including the elderly and the sick, were marooned, unable to get to food or medicine.

Mosher, an excavator, didn’t want for the FEMA bureaucrats to arrive, he and his crew began re-directing the river into its bed. Bloomberg News and other media wrote about his selfless – and unpaid – efforts to help is neighbors. At least 400 cars packed with tourists were stranded for days. Mosher freed them.

There were many heroes in Vermont following Irene. Mosher stood out.

“Craig is definitely a local hero,” said Roger Rivera, 33, an emergency worker with the state of Vermont. “This is what Vermonters do. We don’t wait for  help. We help ourselves.” Rescued refugee tourist, hungry and tired, were also grateful to Mosher for digging out an escape route. “Vermonters have been great. We are glad to be getting out of here.”

He doesn’t sound like a criminally negligent person.

There is absolutely no one in all of rural life who has not had one of their animals escape or lived near someone who has, or seen animals on the road. When it happens, we all rush to help and almost all of the time, the animals are returned safely. It is unimaginable that hard working farmers or people who love animals should have this kind of incident criminalized in so thoughtless and arrogant a way.

In July of last year, Red, the bull got out through a fence after a tree limb fell on it and opened it up.  it has happened to me, and if you have any kind of animal, it can happen to you.

I called a local veterinarian who told me that “Craig takes wonderful care of his animals, I’ve been out there, and he loved the bulls very much, they are well fed, have broad pastures to graze, get the best medical care. He’s a model when it comes to that..”

And, the vet added, he has excellent fences, they are both beautiful and safe.

A neighbor messaged me to talk about Mosher’s civic commitment. “He’s a little league coach, very open, friendly, community minded. He is the classic Vermonter, he cares about the environment, the community…”

Animals and nature do not pay much attention to regulations and even the best prevention efforts. Thousands of fences were destroyed in Hurricane Irene, it tooks weeks, even months to round up all of the animals who ran off terrified during that storm.

But even without a hurricane, a hundred things can lead to an animal’s escape on a farm – fences that rot, lightning, are accidentally opened, damaged by fallen trees, flooding, eaten by insects or rodents, undone by large animals that nose wires up, failed charges on electric fences. And the same is true for dogs and cats. Unless one lives in a prison compound, they will sometimes get out, and sometimes they will run in the road and sometimes they will be killed and innocent passers-by will be injured, sometimes killed, as well.

Once, at the first Bedlam Farm, some children came by without my knowledge or permission to bring carrots to my donkeys, they entered and left the pasture without closing the gate, and when I came home, the donkeys were standing quietly out in the middle of the road. Three of my neighbors were out with carrots and grain to lure them back. I am grateful Rosemary Kennedy was not a prosecutor in my town, I’d still be in jail. So would you, if you love animals and live with them.

I don’t call those happenings crimes, I call them life, and especially, life with animals. No living thing is immune from life, and it is dark thing for government officials to criminalize life itself, and life with animals in particular. The animal rights movement has popularized the idea that animals are above us, and must be made to live free from travail or accident – or life. I’m guessing that is part of this awful decision.

It is difficult enough to have an animal, the more controversial and expensive and fraught it becomes, the fewer and fewer animals there will be in the world. We need to make it easier for people to live with animals, if we wish for any to survive our greed and selfishness. If we wish to keep eating well, we must understand the lives of farmers. Few farmers can afford tall and fail-safe fences, they usually build them themselves, and they have to cover a lot of ground. We have lost any understanding of the real lives of farmers, and we prosecute them at our peril. They are the world’s greatest and most practiced animal lovers, but their animals are not just pets for them.

Such a precedent as Mosher going to jail for this would be especially devastating to farmers, many of whom are already saying in Vermont that they will no longer permit their animals to graze freely outside of their barns. It is impossible to know how many animals will be abandoned, put to death, sent to slaughter, or simply not acquired for fear of this kind of Orwellian prosecution. Farmers depend on neighbors and second-homers to lease their land for pasture, they are already getting calls from people canceling those arrangements because they don’t want to end up in jail.

It would also be a catastrophe for animal and pet owners. Dogs escape from homes all the time, and they run into roads all the time, and some of them get killed and cause accidents, where people get hurt or killed. Craig Mosher is all of us, and his fate is our fate. Sometimes they will get out, and if any animal escape can be considered a crime, not an accident, that will have profound and devastating consequences for the animal world. Farmers will not be able to use neighbor’s pastures or afford insurance rates. Any cat that sneaks under a fence runs dashes across a street can ruin a family and sent his or her owner to jail.

To me, this is an outrageous overreach of government by a legal system that makes life-and-death decisions about farming and animals and pets, but seems to know nothing about them or the people who own them.

The indictment needs to fail. It is wrong on every level. Government exists to protect freedom and property, not to take away both for no reason.

The Vermont Farm Bureau is asking farmer and animals lovers to come to Craig Mosher’s June 6 hearing in Rutland Court. They are asking farmers and animal lovers to write to Vermont legislators and, if possible, come support Mosher in person. When Joshua Rockwood was arrested and charged (falsely) with 13 counts of animal cruelty, more thn 300 farmers and supporters showed up at his court hearing. I thought the judge’s eyes would pop right out of his head. Politicians pay attention to crowds like that.

You can also get a look at Craig Mosher – his pet donkeys, sheep and bulls – even a glimpse of his impressive fencing, on a YouTube video made shortly after Irene. This is a wrong that must be righted, and I believe it will be.

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