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Saturday, 03 May 2008

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This makes me sick. These animals are too young to be run so hard. I'll never watch horse racing again. She did what she was bred & trained to do by humans who's motivation includes money & glory. She never had a chance.

It's sad to see yet another animal die serving for man's amusement. There's effective difference between racing horses, racing greyhounds, fighting dogs, and fighting bulls.

You might call one barbaric and the other noble, but in the end it's all the same; the animals are bred and trained to amuse us, and killed or discarded when they can no longer do so.

Racing is not an explicit bloodsport, but as incidents like this show, the distinction is sometimes only a semantics game.

An antique, inhumane entertainment form that's (thankfully) on the wane due (sadly) to the rise in accessibility and popularity of other forms of gambling. Horse racing swaddles itself in a synthetic image of gentility to legitimize itself and to attract (very non-gentile) betters.

It's disgusting.

Horse racing is most assuredly NOT "disgusting." People have died playing football and baseball, as the result of boxing matches and cycling accidents. Bobsledders, automobile and motorcycle racers have died. Skiers, high divers--even the jockeys who ride race horses. Sport is hazardous. No one ever intends any horse to die, and it is a tragedy on the rare occasions when it happens in a race. For a horse, running is hazardous. Horses do break down on other occasions. Wild horses die from broken ankles and laminitis and all sorts of things--from stepping in gopher holes.

To compare horse racing with bullfighting and dog fighting is inane.

Mike J.

Dear Mike,

Doesn't matter that horses die all the time. That same logic would justify negligent homicide -- "Sure, judge, I did something dumb that caused the death, but y'know people die from all sorts of things all the time." You're still responsible for the events/deaths that you're the cause of.

Humans who participate in sports choose to engage in the risk. No one is thrilled by their deaths, but no one thinks it wasn't their choice. In those rare cases where someone is coerced into risky behavior that causes injury or death, we properly come down hard on the person (be they parent, coach or whoever)who was responsible.

pax / Ctein

Death in sport is OK by me as long as it's only the sportsmen and women who die. They made their choices and can take the consequences. To call horse racing a sport is a little over the top. Horses wouldn't do this if left to their own devices.

It's called sport. As long as it still attracts people, it attracts money. Then it becomes an industry. People make a living from it. It's as legal as eating bread.

One or two -- or twenty two -- tragedy happened. When it happens, some people weep. Being sentimental. Probably they thought to stop eating steak. Definetely stop betting.

After one week or two -- most likely a lot sooner than twenty two -- they start making their bet in a lotto again. Horse or greyhound. Watching the race from the TV -- while enjoying a plate of good size steak. Hoping "their horse" (or "their greyhound") to double the bet.

Life goes on.

Until the next one.

I agree with Mike J., "Horse racing is most assuredly NOT "disgusting."

It would be hard to think of any species that leads a more pampered and relatively risk-free life than a top-tier thoroughbred racehorse.

If reincarnation were an option, I would be happy to be reborn as a racing filly -- Miesque, for example ... but Ruffian, even with her tragic ending, would be very fine.

-Julie

Mike,

There is one big difference between the sports where *people* were killed and were animals die. The people had the choice to participate!! The animals didn't. It is the primitive mind of people to still use animals in *their* sports, especially when they are as dangerous as these horse races. This story makes me very, very sad. I don't understand why they didn't do more to save the horse. It is probably because of money. Really sad. Disgusting is the right word.

I think a reasonable distinction can be drawn between sports in which during the course of competition the participants occasionally get injured or incapacitated (or worse) vs. sports in which the primary GOAL of the competition is to injure or incapacitate (or kill).

"Racing" between animals or between humans (in vehicles or not) falls into the former category, as do MOST legal sports.

"Fighting" between animals or between humans falls into the latter category.

Afraid I'll have to disagree with you on this one, Mike. Here in the UK:

"Approximately 15,000 foals are born into the racing industry each year, yet only a third go on to become racers. Those horses who do not make the grade may be killed for pet food, fed to hunting hounds or repeatedly change hands in a downward spiral of neglect. Of those horses who do go on to race, around 375 are raced to death every year."
Source: https://secure.wsa.u-net.com/www.animalaid.org.uk/racing/index.htm

Then there's all that unnecessary whipping that goes on...

The difference is, Mike, the humans who die in the name of their chosen sport go into it with the full knowledge of its risks. They are not bred as a commodity in the way that racehorses are (and don't get me started on greyhounds).

In 54 days of racing at Cheltenham, in the UK, 21 horses died on the course. I don't call that nearly rare enough.

Afraid I'll have to disagree with you on this one, Mike. Here in the UK:

"Approximately 15,000 foals are born into the racing industry each year, yet only a third go on to become racers. Those horses who do not make the grade may be killed for pet food, fed to hunting hounds or repeatedly change hands in a downward spiral of neglect. Of those horses who do go on to race, around 375 are raced to death every year."
Source: https://secure.wsa.u-net.com/www.animalaid.org.uk/racing/index.htm

Then there's all that unnecessary whipping that goes on...

Leaving aside whether horse racing constitutes cruelty to animals (though I tend to side with Mike on this), can we agree that bullfighting, at least of the Spanish variety, is horrendously cruel and should be banned? I gather that it's central to a certain understanding of a particular aspect to some Spanish subculture or another, ... but c'mon!

Just the thought of it makes me sick. In some ways, it's worse than even dog- or cock-fighting -- at least it's animal-on-animal (and one-on-one, for the most part) in that setting. But one bull against a host of sword- and spear- wielding humans, solely for the entertainment of said humans?

Can someone explain how this amuseument is still legal in the Enlightened EU (and they are indeed a whole lot more enlightened than us here in the good ol' USA on nearly everything else)?

But skiers, divers, football players, boxers etc... don't have anybody sitting on their back slapping them. They decided to take the risk. Big difference I think.

"euthanized"

Ha; horrible cover-up name.

At the risk of this dialog straying into a philosophical discourse about free will...

Human beings that take part in dangerous sports (usually) do so of their own free will, and are (usually) aware of the dangers, and are able assess the trade-off between risk and benefit. Also, when they're injured they can retire, instead of being killed off.

In the context of the article, EightBelles had these decisions made for her, by humans. So I don't think you can really justify dangerous equine sports by using dangerous human sports as an analogy.

Leaving that aside, I think there will always be strong disagreements on this subject. People who follow equine sports will probably accept this sort of thing as part of the territory, even though they don't necessarily find it pleasant. People who don't like equine sports will either not care, or disapprove of it. You'll never get agreement on it.

Anyway, I thought the photos were good :-)

The difference is that people have a choice as to whether or not to participate in a sport. Animals do not. They are at the mercy of humans whose motivation is often times not in the best interest of the animal. Comparing accidents that happen to wild animals to "sport" injuries is what is inane.

Alan Olander, DVM

As a novice animal rescuer and pet photographer (yes, horses & dogs) who does not particularly follow racing or gambling news or happenings, I believe the difference Mike, is that humans can decide for themselves if taking unnecessary sporting risks are worth it. Such as a nascar driver. However animals are forced into that risk and servitude - only to provide entertainment and profit. As a horse, you win or at least finish the tracks, or you fall and die. Horses cannot survive a bad leg injury so its rather ironic that this majestic species was selected for racing entertainment. I suppose its because a Cheetah or the like - would shred anyone attempting to "train" it to run in a circle when it has other things on its agenda.

The dilemma is: Some individual animals do very much enjoy running vs sitting around eating grass all day. And they get top medical care and feed in return for free. Unless they fall.
But some animals are traumatized over the whole racing life and pressure. Former Greyhound dogs (coming into rescue) - seem to have a particular blank stare for awhile after retirement. Then most of them warm up into normal dogs after they are away from the track. Anyone with a rescue dog of any breed knows what I'm talking about (and the rescues are often from other types of "out of their element" situations, not just racing.)
So what are these racing animals, while they are living at the track - that they don't even know their own species traits/behaviors? (Yes I know not all race animals are physically abused. I am speaking of mental issues; as in why do we bother putting animals in this situation?)

Humans have always wanted to wager on something that runs - be it biological or mechanical. So does it matter what species is doing the running really? Why not line up the jockeys themselves on their own two God given feet, and race them, in uniform? That would be amusing, you can "bet" on that!

Another thought: If gambling on animals running in a circle with no choice - is legal, then why is it illegal then to bet on the Boston Marathon; where the runners clearly understand the risk/rewards? I'd be in full support of that, vs forcing animals into that life.

(other than forcing animals into things they would not normally be doing....I know there's the whole "how hamburgers are made" branch of discussion of the argument. I must say, I do enjoy a good hamburger. Shame on me!)

from,
A daily visitor.

"The difference is that people have a choice as to whether or not to participate in a sport."

So I take it that many of you, in saying such things, believe that sportsmen who die while participating in their sport deserve to die? Or that they choose to die? Or that their deaths are not tragic, because they "decided" to participate in their sport?

Or that all horse racing should be abolished because some horses get injured? I'm not saying that's an absurd position, but I'm asking, is it your position?

Far be it from me to act as the spokesperson for an entire sport when I'm merely an occasional fan, but I think it's a foregone conclusion that people have been racing horses for just about as long as people have been *riding* horses. I.e., many thousands of years. And to prevent horses from running...well, that's another kind of wrong.

Mike J.

Dear Mike,

"So I take it that many of you, in saying such things, believe that sportsmen who die while participating in their sport deserve to die? Or that they choose to die? Or that their deaths are not tragic, because they 'decided' to participate in their sport?"

By no stretch of the imagination did anyone here suggest that--most of us took pains to make it clear that such deaths were regrettable.

pax / Ctein

This is an interesting debate. Also a complex one. I think after seeing something like this, a sense of outrage is very easy to experience. As someone who has no particular interest in horse racing, I felt it myself.

I wholeheartedly agree that the animals are exploited and don't have the power of reasoning that, say, professional boxers do. But it's also true that horses run by nature and do suffer injuries whether on the track or no. I think the difference is that on the track, they are run to their very limits, and may also be bred to be more fragile and injury prone (but faster) than they would be in nature. However I'll happily admit to ignorance on that last point. And I think Puplet (above) made a good point about the system that turns out thoroughbred race horses which strikes me as rather sad, particularly when we talk about the neglected animals and the many who are "raced to death".

I'm also an omnivore, so I won't claim any sort of moral superiority. I wish the animals raised for my food were treated humanely, but I'm aware that that isn't always the case.

Nonetheless, Mike, I don't think you need to make this an either/or proposition. People are entitled to their complexities and nuanced opinions. Just saying one will never watch horse racing again isn't the same as saying it should be abolished. I'm not worked up about banning bullfights, but I would never go to see a one. I think the ban on foxhunting was an interesting cause célèbre, though not a particularly great step forward in the fight against mistreatment of animals.

There are many reasons to dislike the sport of horse-racing (I have mine but I won't go into them here), just as there are many reasons to dislike boxing, car racing, bicycle racing, bullfighting, and probably any other sport you can name.

I don't think you can discount people's outrage over this by asking as you did, "So I take it that many of you, in saying such things, believe that sportsmen who die while participating in their sport deserve to die? Or that they choose to die? Or that their deaths are not tragic, because they "decided" to participate in their sport?" The point people are making is that humans, imperfect as we are, are able to make informed calculations about risk that the horses are not.

I think the dividing line here is that while animals may be unable to make informed decisions about their participation in sport, they are after all, only animals. If, as a thought exercise, we substituted hypothetical people who were faster runners than regular people but mentally handicapped (i.e. unable to make informed decisions) for the horses, (but we still whipped them to run faster) then imagine the outrage. So I think it must come down to how much we value the life of a horse compared to that of a human.

Apologies for the long post, but as I said, I found the debate interesting.

I, too, have an opinion, but LOOK at that PICTURE! Eight hooves off the ground - eat your heart out, Muybridge.

Best, Bill

Gosh, I hope all who are outraged over the supposed cruelty of horse racing are also strict vegans. It's sad indeed what happened to this beautiful horse, but everyday many, many thousands of cattle and pigs are slaughtered for our consumption, yet most people find that easy to accept mainly because it all happens in the background, we just see the end product cleanly wrapped in plastic at our local supermarket, or brightly packaged as a Mc-whatever.

BTW, I am not a vegetarian, but I am mindful of the origins of what I consume.

The evidence is mounting daily from the very high numbers of premature deaths among pro-wrestlers, boxers, NFL players, etc. that steroid use and repetitive concussions are killing our young athletes. In the case of pro-wrestling I don't think it is possible to make the case that they are engaging in it for the "sport" as it generally acknowledged to be entertainment, but I don't know if dying for show business is better or worse than dying for sport.

One can make the case that these humans engaged in these activities with eyes wide open and knew what they were doing, except that the powers that be in those arenas have tended to bury the evidence, in much the same way that tobacco companies used to. It is difficult to make the case (with a straight face) that people are making adult informed choices when the evidence is not made available.

I understand people who are offended that we use and possibly abuse animals for our "divertissement", but we do the same with humans every day. I don't believe that there is any ideal that we aren't willing to bury if it means making a buck.

"I, too, have an opinion, but LOOK at that PICTURE! Eight hooves off the ground - eat your heart out, Muybridge."

Bill,
Thanks for that. Somebody actually asked me what this post has to do with photography....

Mike J.

"So I take it that many of you, in saying such things, believe that sportsmen who die while participating in their sport deserve to die? Or that they choose to die? Or that their deaths are not tragic, because they 'decided' to participate in their sport?"

My point in saying the above is simply that nobody wants or intends to die from participating in a sport. "To die or not to die" is never the decision that is made. And neither does anyone ever intend or desire for a horse to be injured or die in a race. In the normal course of a race, no horse comes out the worse for wear--in fact, horses are supposed to survive their whole racing *careers* with no adverse health effects, and many of them do. I've lived with reclaimed racehorses. Horses are not making risk assessments on their own behalf, it is true. But horses love to run, and people who love horses love to let them run.

As for nuance, I will not watch bullfighting and would not be caught dead watching dog fighting. I've been very affected emotionally by what happened to Eight Belles yesterday. I also cannot bear to watch the tape of Barbaro breaking down--I find it absolutely horrifying, in a way I can hardly describe. I have never watched the tape of the Match Race (in which Ruffian broke down in her one-on-one contest with the colt who won the Derby that year, Foolish Pleasure) since the day it happened, 32 years ago. I wish I could forget having seen it the first time.

Where I differ with many of the commenters is that I don't extend those feelings to the entire sport, because I love the sport--I find thoroughbred racing magnificent and inspiring. I suspect that many of those who dismiss the whole sport based on the most tragic consequences of it simply don't care much for it in the first place. It's easy to be uncompromisingly moralistic about something one doesn't have any connection to and feels no affection for.

Mike J.

I'm with Mike. Personally I consider most of the above comments against horse races as a superficial way of showing sensitivity towards animals. I even could consider such opinions as a new trend in western culture, a shift from human-centered vision of world to a ecocentered or earth‐centered one, if these people wouldn't accept to kill any animal for any reason, meat included, or to exploit them in any way.

Are you all vegetarians? Moreover, if horses are entitled to freedom of choice, why don't complain about all the other uses of them in human activity? Everything, also the most peaceful works, implies a certain risk for their health and above all, following the main objection above, it completely limits their liberty.

Don't you see in which deep contradictions you are falling, folks?

That's why I agree with the people who believe that the main difference between disgusting sports and noble ones involving animals is in the intentions and aims of the particular sport. If you don't want animals in sport because they are damaged in their "right to freedom", I respect you just if you're consistent enough to apply this ethics to any other field of life, even though I cannot certainly share such a eco-centered vision.

I apologize for my limited English but I hope to have been clear.

"Gosh, I hope all who are outraged over the supposed cruelty of horse racing are also strict vegans."

Gosh, I hope that all those who demand moral and personal perfection from those they disagree with have already exhibited it themselves.

If not, it's just an attempt to dishonestly silence and discredit discussion.

"BTW, I am not a vegetarian, but I am mindful of the origins of what I consume."

BTW, me too.

And, BTW, many of my friends and lovers are vegetarian and even vegan; not one of them has ever suggested that my concerns about animal welfare are insincere or unwelcome because I don't happen to subscribe to all (or even their) aspect of it.

Trying to co-opt a moral position one doesn't even subscribe to might just be taken as a sign of moral imperfection by some. Just maybe.

pax / Ctein

I think some debates have little sense if any at all. Maybe we should look at the world differently.

Pain and death and suffering are unavoidable, part of life, part of the world. IMHO it's a futile exercise to argue about whether horses should race, specially considering that most humans diet on mammals and other living beings. I am not prepared yet to become a Jainite, and to avoid hurting animals and living beings, icluding all those that are harmful to us, from mosquitoes, spiders, to four or two legged predators.

I don't particularly like horseracing, but the beauty of it is easy to appreciate and enjoy. I am sure it has a dark side to it. It's not suprising. Can you think of any activity, sport, religion,etc. that doesn't?

I am writing from Spain. Just imagine. I am firmly convinced of the cruelty of the bull fight, the corrida and quite disgusted by it. Still, I am affected by its beauty. Bull fighters risk their lives, most of them end up seriously maimed and hurt, and quite a few die on the plaza. Most of those that survive are only happy at the plaza, fighting a bull. Whenever I find a corrida while shifting trough the tv channels, I stay with it. And altough my rational self tells me it's disgusting, cruel etc., there is another side of me that is really moved by it in several ways. Whenever the argument arises--there are plenty of Spaniards who oppose bullfighting--I hear the same points raised on these comments.

This is no Disney world, emotions are far more complex. It's like I have always been a pacifist, till I found some people just are not and you are forced to challenge and control them sometimes. I still prefer to be a pacifist and consider myself as such, but I understood long ago that the only invention that allowed humanity to progress was that of the army and particularly the police, and the monopolization by the State of the use of violence. It's as horrible as that. And forgive me for disgressing so much...

"It's easy to be uncompromisingly moralistic about something one doesn't have any connection to and feels no affection for."

I wholeheartedly agree, and would argue that the converse is also true: It's easy to compromise one's morals when it comes to something one has a connection to and feels affection for. Like me enjoying a nice steak for example.

You probably never saw this torrent of horrified responses coming, but it's true that many people have no real connection to horse racing while nonetheless feeling a connection to horses. And for me (and I think others here as well) no amount of great racing that day could make up for this casualty. As I said before, I claim no moral superiority.

Three things spring to mind: we tend to "euthanize" human sportsmen rather less than we do animals; also any horse race must stand in the dark shadow of the thousands of horses culled that didn't make the grade; horses in the wild may break their ankles and die, but they don't do it running in a circle for the pleasure of thousands of spectators. We can turn the human-animal idea on its head here: thousands of people die as victims of knife and gun crime - but that doesn't mean we should televise it and place bets on it as a form of entertainment.

"Three things spring to mind: we tend to 'euthanize' human sportsmen rather less than we do animals"

True, but you need to investigate euthanasia issue much more seriously before tossing off a comment like this. Human euthanasia is considered a "step too far" on the Slippery Slope, but it's practiced as a practical matter, quietly and unofficially, by doctors all over the world, every day.

"thousands of people die as victims of knife and gun crime--but that doesn't mean we should televise it"

Um...what? Do you *watch* television?

Mike J.

All she had was 2 broken ankles. Just because she couldn't race at top speed shouldn't mean that she should die.

Nathan,
As I keep saying, two broken fronts is a fatal injury for a horse. She could not have survived by any plausible scenario.

Mike J.

I grew up around thoroughbreds and standardbreds in my hometown. There's a race track just 6 blocks from my childhood home. My friends and I spent virtually every day in the summers helping with the care and feeding of the horses. We also had the great opportunity to watch countless training sessions and races. You who somehow feel that these horses are coerced into running a race are woefully ignorant of equine behavior. These animals love to run. That's all they really know how to do and please forgive my anthropomorphising for a moment; they absolutely crave it. You could end organized horse racing tomorrow and you'd still have horses that run and, yes, race each other. Have you ever dreamed of an occupation that you considered ideal; a job that would pay well and satisfy virtually every emotional, professional and social need you ever had? These horses have that "dream job" you'll never have.

The problem (if there is one) is not with the racing, or the treatment of the animals, but with their breed. Hundreds of years of selective breeding and inbreeding have resulted in the beauty and speed of the Thoroughbred. Powerful, courageous but fragile. All Thoroughbred horses can trace their lineage to one of three "foundation sires". An extremely small gene pool.

Nobody asks their cat or dog if it's okay to have them spayed or castrated (and also exposed to the risks of death during surgery) -- and I think we can all guess what their answer would be if we did ask them.

Nevertheless, off they go -- snip, snip.

-Julie

And I'm sure that these horses choose to be doped up for fun and profit. Nevertheless, off they go -- stab, stab.

http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/columns/story?columnist=forde_pat&id=3378296&sportCat=horse

How have we become a society that is so polarized about issues such as humanity's relationship with animals?

and time goes on and we think of other things on which to dwell and froth and ever was it so and ever shall it be......only the subject changes, never the fervor. I personally think the photo with 8 hooves in the air is stunning and greatly overshadows all the verbiage that followed. But....I've got 2 cents too, to wit:
Death is the flip side of Life, and, by golly,
Here we are.......

best wishes

Dear Mark,

How do you read that from this thread?! Of the forty posts here, I count four that were disparaging those who held a different point of view. The remaining 90% disagreed with each other (collectively) but in no way were disrespectful nor expressed ill will towards their 'opposition.'

That's not a polarization, that's merely strongly-held differences in beliefs.

pax / Ctein

It really was a brilliant display by Big Brown and at the same time I found it hard to celebrate because of what happened to Eight Belles. It's an unfortunate reality that horses will get badly injured in races at times but injuries occur in almost all sports.

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