Horse Racing and Ethical Concerns
18th March 2007
Well, as Cheltenham Festival (the racing one) comes to an end after the Gold Cup, I have spoke to a number of students who have had moral concerns about the status of horse racing – mostly jump racing…
Well- – I thought it was an intriguing topic for the blog..
The Animal Aid website at http://www.animalaid.org.uk/h/n/CAMPAIGNS/horse/ALL/// says:
Most people regard horse racing as a harmless sport in which the animals are
willing participants who thoroughly enjoy the thrill. The truth is that, behind
the scenes, lies a story of immense suffering. Approximately 15,000
foals are born into the closely-related British and Irish racing industries
each year, yet only a third go on to become racers. Those horses who do not
make the grade may be slaughtered for meat 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.
Beneath its glamorous façade, commercial horse racing is a ruthless industry motivated by financial gain and prestige. Cruelty? You can bet on it!
And a campaign to ban the use of the whip says (see: http://www.livingethically.co.uk/Pages/HomeArticles/2007campaign-banthewhip.htm )
Why should the whip be banned?
ITS USE IS TO PROMOTE UNNATURAL SPEED – The overiding reason for using a whip upon a racehorse is to get it to perfom at its absolute optimum – to encourge it to try harder or run faster than it would under natural conditions. This is of little benefit to the horse itself. Surely, to demand a horse runs at an artifically engineered speed through using a whip is done merely to satisfy human expectations and desires to see how fast horses will go in competition with each other.
A RACE IS STILL A RACE IF A WHIP IS USED OR NOT – The point of horse racing must be that they race against each other over a predetermined course and distance and the horse that passes the finishing post first wins. Whether a whip is used or not in this process is immaterial – without whips, a race could still be run and winners declared.
FOR SAFETY REASONS – Some horses veer or at least run away from a whip,
especially if inexperienced – this means that if for example a jockey is using
his whip in his right hand, the horse will move to the left. This can potentially cause accidents. Also, by running at an unatural speed – flat out – horses can make mistakes, especially when jumping.
WHAT WAS ACCEPTABLE THEN SHOULDN’T BE NOW – We do not use physical persuasions upon humans to control their behvaiour any longer, eg corporal punishment – why should horses be physically persuaded by the use of the whip to give unreasonably beyond their all? In different times, using a whip upon an animal was viewed as acceptable as it could be used on a human being, but this should no longer be the case.
Is this convincing? Clearly the are issues about the instrumental use of animals, but for those who eat meat, wear leather and have pets – can we really criticse here without being hypocrites? What defence is offered by the industry? The Horseracing Regulatory Authority has guidance on the whip:
The HRA will not tolerate abuse of the horse and consider its welfare, and the safety of the rider, to be paramount. The whip should be used for safety, correction and encouragement only and they therefore advise all riders to consider the following good ways of using the whip which are not exhaustive:
Showing the horse the whip and giving it time to respond before hitting it.
Using the whip in the backhand position for a reminder.
Having used the whip, giving the horse a chance to respond before using it again.
Keeping both hands on the reins when using the whip down the shoulder in the backhand position.
Using the whip in rhythm with the horse’s stride and close to its side.
Swinging the whip to keep a horse running straight.
The HRA has asked Stewards of Meetings to consider holding an enquiry into any case where a rider has used his whip in such a way as to cause them concern and publish the following examples of uses of the whip which may be regarded as improper riding:
Hitting horses:to the extent of causing
with the whip arm above shoulder height;
rapidly without regard to their stride, i.e. twice or more in one stride;
with excessive force;
without giving the horse time to respond.
In this view – the whip is of benefit to the horse – it helps it race well and stay safe… But what of the wider moral argument? Many feel that horse-owners love and care deeply for their animals, the business provides employment and pleasure to thousands and further to this – many feel that the horses derive pleasure from racing themselves (and that racing is natural to them)- and that the critics are sentimental hypocrites…
Well – enough from me – what do you think on this topic..