When the American Museum of Agriculture in Lubbock, TX, wanted a diorama that would illustrate how mules have played a part in agriculture, they could have made a fiberglass model.
Instead, they bought two mules, killed them, and had them stuffed. The museum said they’d looked at other options:
“After an exhaustive but fruitless search for preserved, exhibit-quality animals, one of our board members learned that an area horse and mule trader had purchased a pair of mules that would fit our needs. According to the owner, the animals had reached the advanced ages of about 28 and 32, respectively, and were no longer sound or strong enough for normal use.”
The two mules they killed must have been delighted to know they were “exhibit quality” and that they’d be giving up their lives so that they would serve some higher purpose. As the museum board put it:
“The reason that you use a real animal is to most accurately show the way the activity was done at the time. A fiberglass replica just doesn’t convey the same message.”
Executive Director Lacee Hoeltling explained that when mules like these have reached the end of their working life, they are generally sent to Mexico to be turned into dog food.
“When we can find animals that were scheduled to be destroyed anyway and then immortalize them in an exhibit we can really show their importance in the development of agriculture.”
But while these two mules may no longer have been “useful” to some rancher, their quality of life was far from over. The museum board repeated that they were looking for “exhibit-quality” animals, which doesn’t sound like some poor creature who’s on her last legs.
One person who works with rescued mules had offered to give these animals a home herself.
“I said please don’t do this, you know there’s got to be a better way. I can give them a home,” Ramona Foxworth of Gypsy Heart Rescue told local media. “They could have lived out the end of their days under an apple tree which is probably what they deserved anyway.”
To which the museum simply replied:
“Our board did consider the use of fiberglass replicas but were advised that the impact of the exhibit would be substantially diminished.”
Well, they’ve certainly managed to make an impact. But what’s been seriously diminished is not the exhibit but the lives of two gentle creatures and the moral standing of these dreadful people.