IS HORSE RACING CRUEL?

Late this afternoon I’ll be watching the Preakness at Pimlico, the second leg of the Triple Crown. The odds-on favorite is Big Brown, winner of the Kentucky Derby two weeks ago.

But there is a shadow over today’s race. It’s the memory of what happened at the Derby when the filly, Eight Belles, finished right behind the winner but then broke her two front ankles and had to be put down. (I remember when I was a little kid in Ontario being at a sulky track with my Uncle Jack when a trotter broke his leg and was shot in the head on the track with a rifle.) Immediately the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals seized on the tragedy, calling for Eight Bells’ jockey to be suspended and the sport curtailed. “It’s a dirty business and no better than dogfighting,” PETA charged.

Which begs the question (asked by many after the Derby): “Is horse racing cruel?”

Many say it is. Horses are mainly bread for speed, not strength so they have barrel-chested lungs held up by spindly legs. Many argue that three-year-olds are too young for the rigours of racing. Racers are bred for speed, not strength and then, ironically, race only a few times and are put out to stud. Is there something cruel about this whole regimen?

I have only been to a major track a few times in my life, mainly Saratoga in New York state where I did not see Secretariat race but did see the magnificent horse paraded on the track on his farewell tour.

Do you have any interest in horse racing?

Have you been to any tracks?

Do you think horse racing is cruel?

Will you be watching the Preakness this afternoon. “Oh Maryland, my Maryland.”

6:10

You won, Jim/ Big Brown won the Preakness going away and stands a good chance of winning the Belmont in three weeks to become the first Triple Crown winner in 30 years.

9 Comments »

  1. 1
    Paul Costopoulos Says:

    Any sport or activity implying an effort or a risk of being hurt either for humans or animal is cruel and should be banned. Remember we were created to people Eden and just enjoy immortal life.

  2. 2
    Chimera Says:

    Absolutely, Paul. Horses were not meant to race for the pleasure of humans, nor to carry us on their backs. We should be carrying them.

    Dogs should never be led about on leashes — how humiliating for them! And given orders (“Sit!” “Stay!”) as if they were slaves with no wills of their own! And then to have their reproductive rights arbitrarily cut off without even being consulted! Inhuman!

    PETA for GOD!

    [*okay if I get my tongue outa my cheek, now?*]

  3. 3
    Paul Costopoulos Says:

    Without humour, Chimera, our world is doomed.

  4. 4
    jim Says:

    It’s late winter 1979.
    I’m at the Hialeah track in Florida.
    It’s one of those balmy days and the horses are chomping at the bit. Flamingo Stakes are about to be run off. The crowd waits in antisipation as the great Spectaculer Bid is about to make the scene.
    The whole area is very colourful, as Hollywood is in the process of making a movie, involving the Flamingos and the local ladies as extras.
    The wannabe actresses have been asked to dress in gowns a-la-southern-belle style if they want to participate in the movie. The betting has been limited to “win” bets only. No “Place” and no “show” bets. If the “Bid’ wins, all one can expect to take home is five cents on the dollar. Now, there is something in play here that won’t be in the movie, and that is many years before, the second greatest winner of all time, “Secretariat”, won the Triple Crown of racing. There were over 5000 winning tickets on “Secretariat” that were never cashed in. Those tickets today are worth more than their cost and the loss attributed to their not having been cashed in. The losers were consoled with having the belles prancing around. The “Bid” won and went on to win the Kentucky Derby a few months later. Name of the biggest winner you ask, why “man o’war” of course. Also if I remember correctly “Secretariat” was trained by a Canadian and the jockey was Turcotte also of Canadian fame. My money is on Big Brown at 6pm tonight.

  5. 5
    Paul Costopoulos Says:

    As French theater people say:”Merde, Jim”.

  6. 6

    PETA is full of it.

  7. 7
    dez Says:

    I have a big orange-and-white cat. He was given to us by a friend of my daughter, who said his name was “Mr. Chester Boo”. Within a week, I had renamed him Silly.

    Silly is, without question, the most graceless feline I have ever seen. He tends to fall off whatever chair/shelf/windowsill he tries to make himself comfortable on. In order to avoid falling off the back of the couch, he reaches out and grips the corner with both claws.

    Add to this image his large, floppy belly and big round eyes that always look surprised, and its hard not to laugh.

    Turns out Silly is a Ragdoll cat. Not a purebred, since his eyes are not blue and his orange-and-white coat, while soft as a rabbit’s fur, is not patterned according to the official breeder’s guidelines. But, otherwise, he fits the breed.

    Another thing I have noticed about him is his absolute passivity. He is the gentlest, friendliest cat I have ever met. He would last barely a day if left on his own in the wild. This is also a characteristic of the Ragdoll breed.

    What’s wrong with that, you ask?

    According to most animal behaviorists, the domestic house cat is one of the most efficient hunters on Earth. The sheer variety of possible food sources – birds, rodents, fish, amphibians, various bugs – is larger than for any other predator.

    Silly is not a predator. He was bred to be an animated plush toy.

    When I realized this, I picked him up and held him. And cried.

    The modern thoroughbred racehorse is bred for maximum muscle and minimal bone – to make them faster. At some point, it becomes possible for the muscle to pull hard enough to break the bone it is attached to, just by getting up and walking. The horses that do that never get to race, of course.

    But, for the ones who survive the act of running, their bones are so very, very fragile. More than half of all horses that fall during a race have to be put down.

    In the wild, a mustang can take a fall and get back up and run. If they couldn’t, they would not survive.

    Do we have the right to take a wolf and turn it into a pekingese? The pekingese doesn’t know he is not a wolf, and would like nothing more than to chase a cariboo, should the opportunity present itself. The cariboo, of course, would stomp the little ball of hair into the tundra, then go back to eating moss.

    In the end, it doesn’t matter if we have the right or not. We will continue to breed wild things into whatever suits our desires, as we always have.

    There are times when I think we cross a line, and we ourselves become less human in the crossing.

  8. 8
    dez Says:

    Oh, and only winners are put out to stud.

    Losers are dogfood.


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