Taking a stand
When was the last time you did something to change something you didn't like? Julia McDaniel heard about wild horses being treated poorly and decided to take a stand. She put posters up at her school, started a petition, and collected letters from students and community members to send to Congress. In the end, she gathered hundreds of signatures and over 250 letters that she sent to her state representatives and senators. Was she able to help save the wild horses? Read her interview to find out.
When did you become interested in horses?
I became interested in horses the summer after third grade. My friend Elizabeth called me and asked me to come to horse camp with her. It's a weeklong overnight camp a few hours away, so it took a lot of begging and reasoning with my parents to let me go. I had a great time and I go back every summer. I also take riding lessons in the fall and spring. My favorite way to ride is bareback!
What did you think when you found out about the wild horses being sold to companies who slaughter them to make things like pet food or gelatin?
I was shocked. I couldn’t believe that I had bought and eaten products that come from wild horses. That includes jello, gummy worms, and lots of marshmallows. I’ve had countless campfires smores in my lifetime. I was kind of disgusted with myself. But then, I was more disgusted that it was legal for those products to be consumed by anybody.
What made you decide to write a petition and get kids your age involved?
I think it holds a lot of power when you get a large group of people together for a common purpose. Many people didn't know about what was happening, and if you take it upon yourself to inform people and make helping accessible to them, creating change isn't as difficult. I also think kids need to be involved and informed about current issues. Kids hold a big influence on the future and can make change happen. A similar law was passed in 1971 and children were the group of people that changed that legislature in favor of the wild horses then. I figured, why can't we do that now?
How did you do it and how did you inspire others?
I found out about what was happening after reading Terri Farley's Phantom Stallion series, which centers around a girl who lives on a ranch in Nevada and protects wild horses' rights. I went to her web site to see when the next book was coming out and she had information about the commercial slaughter of wild horses on her blog. Terri was encouraging people to take action and all I needed was that little bit of encouragement. What's important to remember is that Congress does want to listen to your opinions—that's their job. Our representatives and senators are responsible for voting on issues based on the way the citizens in their district feel about that issue. A politician's job is not only to introduce new ideas but to make sure that citizens' opinions are heard. As far as inspiring others, I'm not sure how I did that. I hope I did that. If I did, it would be by setting an example. Sometimes people need an example to figure out how to do something. I need several, okay, a lot, to do my pre-algebra homework.
What is the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act and how did your efforts help create it?
The American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act, which was passed in September 2006, made it illegal to slaughter wild horses commercially. That means that no wild horses can be slaughtered to be made into pet food or gelatin, or other products. This legislature enforces that no wild horse can be slaughtered for human consumption. Since we contacted Congress with our letters and petitions, along with hundreds of other animal lovers across the country, we can say we had a part in helping create this law.
Have you done anything else that has helped raise awareness about a particular issue?
I've done some small things, like writing an editorial on Black History Month, and convincing the coordinator for National History Day at my school to let seventh graders participate. I live in Ohio, and a lot of people are really obsessed with the Buckeye football team here. I'm not one of them, however. I'm actually a Wolverines fan—the Buckeyes' rivals. My assistant principal, who is a big fan, would play the Buckeyes' fight song during lunch and over the announcements on Friday mornings. The theme of the dance was even “Buckeye Fever.” How unjust is that? People who aren't Buckeye fans should still have been welcome. I wrote him a letter about these issues, but nothing changed. So, I polled the entire student population at my school on their favorite college football team to prove to the administration that not all students are Buckeye crazed. After that, the playing of the fight song ceased.
Do you want to be involved with getting your opinions heard when you get older?
Definitely. I can't imagine doing anything else. I'm planning on being a journalist. I have so many opinions that if I kept them all inside me it would probably cloud up my vision. I like to be able to see clearly.
What do you do to stay healthy?
I am currently battling migraines, so I am restricted from a lot of different foods, such as dairy products (especially cheeses), citrus fruits, chocolate, and sugar, salty things, and yeast products. I have to make sure what I'm eating doesn't contain any of those things. I also bike 7 miles round trip to my public library to check out books during the summer and on the weekend. It's really nice to be able to get there easily—without having to beg for a ride—since I love to read.
Content last reviewed May 01, 2007
Page last updated May 01, 2007