The Ethics of Horse Racing
Horse racing is a popular sport that involves humans perched on top of horses as they are compelled to run at breakneck speed by means of the whip. The game originated in ancient Greece, where it was first recorded around 700 to 40 B.C. Later, it developed into the sport that many people today enjoy watching and betting on. The race is organized by a set of rules that govern everything from the age and sex of the runners to the distance and type of track. Depending on the rules, the race may be open to all entrants or restricted to certain types of horses or riders. There are different types of races, including Thoroughbred racing and harness racing. Both are popular in the United States and elsewhere.
When Eight Belles died in the 2008 Kentucky Derby it sparked a reckoning about the ethics of this most prestigious and dangerous of sports. She was a champion who died from the exorbitant physical stress of her job. And she was just three years old. Medina Spirit was another beloved equine athlete who also died from the rigors of racing. And countless other young horses have been slaughtered for their bodies and hearts after being drugged, whipped, and pushed to their limits.
In order to compete at a high level, horses must be able to withstand the intense and constant physical stress of racing. They are bred, raised and trained at an early age, often in isolation. They are injected with drugs to control their heart rate and other conditions. And, most importantly for a sport that depends on gamblers, they are constantly tested to see how much they can win.
As a result, there are numerous injuries that can occur during a race. Some of the most common include traumatic head injuries, broken legs, and fractured spines. Often, these injuries are the result of collisions with other horses or the track itself. Despite the best efforts of racehorses and their trainers, some animals just cannot handle this immense physical stress.
The problem with racing is that it is not evolving in a way that puts the needs of horses as its top priority. Instead, it is a sport that seems content to ignore the concerns of animal rights activists and new would-be fans while continuing to exploit these beautiful creatures for profit.
And for the countless horses that do survive the rigors of racing, their lives are a living hell in the aftermath. Unless they are adopted or rescued by the small handful of independent nonprofit rescues and individuals that network, fundraise and work tirelessly to save them, most horses hemorrhage into the slaughter pipeline. According to PETA, an estimated ten thousand American thoroughbreds are killed every year, most of them in Canada or Mexico. It is an unconscionable fate for these animals that were drugged, whipped, and pushed past their breaking points.