Tuesday, 13 March 2012

COMMENT: How much longer can a civilised society tolerate horse racing?

Today the annual blood bath begins - grandly called the Cheltenham Festival as if there is something about animal abuse that should be celebrated.

Horse racing is wrong.

It is abuse.

It is cruelty.

It has little to do with a love for animals and all to do with gambling.

In recent years the Cheltenham Festival has witnessed the killings of so many horses that even the organisers have taken action to try to minimise the problem but this doesn't mean that horse racing is a caring, loving, animal friendly sport.

Far from it.

For every Kauto Star that becomes a celebrity there are many, many horses who are killed by their owners because they're not fast enough, haven't win enough money or are too old to race any more. Few race horses have long retirements, too many are sent to the abattoir, discarded like a pair of old jeans.

Sadly, because so many in the British establishment gave an interest and involvement in horse racing, it has an air of respectability. Quite why I will never understand. And the broadcast media goes overboard at regular intervals throughout the year: Cheltenham, the Grand National, the Derby...

Horse racing is cruel. The jockeys have made much if the new whip which, they claim, is more about sound and less about pain. That is irrelevant. We should not be whipping horses purely for entertainment and to support the corrupt, global betting markets.

Sure, flat racing is safer than jumps. Well, it's safer on race day. The owners and trainers kill just as many flat racers as National Hunt horses away from the courses.

And it is no argument that horses naturally run and jump. No animal should be used for entertainment. Crufts, the dog show that finished last weekend, is an atrocity of dangerous selective breeding and making animals do things just for human entertainment, and the selective breeding of race horses has made them into very fragile beasts, most unlike their natural cousins.

The government has recently announced they will ban the use of "wild animals" in circuses. This is to be applauded as it is a situation that should have been stopped decades ago. But while elephants, tigers, zebras, etc. will be protected from any further abuse by new legislation race horses will continue to be misused and abused, injured, drugged and killed so that people can "have a flutter".

Let's not be naive. The use of the term "have a flutter" is deliberately used to make it all seem innocent fun, but alongside every once or twice a year punter there are countless gambling addicts whose life, and the lives of their families, are destroyed by gambling. And beyond them are the international betting syndicates that have destroyed the credibility of cricket and who are without scruple or moral code.

I'm often surprised that bookmakers don't seem to offer odds on the number of horses that will be killed during a race meeting.

If we were a civilised society we would treat all animals with care and respect. Sadly, while horse racing is seen as an acceptable pastime, we are still a society of barbarians.

1 comment:

  1. I didn't know that the 'sport' was related to so many deaths (my naivety).