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THE ISSUE: Is horse racing cruel?
10:00am Wednesday 11th April 2012 in Columns
No . . .
Grace Muir, founder of Homing Ex-Racehorse Organisation Scheme (Heros) at North Farm Stud, Fawley, near Wantage.
All life is cruel; especially humans on humans. In relative terms, horse racing is hardly cruel at all. Indeed it is very much the opposite.
Homo sapiens moved from vulnerable hunter gatherers to burgeoning agricultural societies with the help of dogs and horses.
Without these relationships we might not even have survived. So our bonding with horses began many thousands of years ago. Horses became part of our extended family and an amazing amount has been achieved through the partnership; a far cry from “dumb animals having no choice”.
The thoroughbred horse is much prized. Expense is not spared for its welfare.
Yes, it undergoes the rigours of training and competition, but no more so than for professional sports people.
Horse racing is well regulated and regulation is being improved continuously.
Racing is structured so that horses compete to a level within their capability. There are risks but these are actively managed.
It is impossible to eliminate accidents, but that is part of all sport. Provided capability through training and welfare assessment justifies taking the risk, cruelty is not an issue.
It will always be possible to find examples of cruelty in horse racing but this is true in all human activity. Think about what we know about the treatment of the elderly, those with learning difficulties and people with dementia. They would have been better off as a race horse.
My charity, Heros, has much to do to ensure the welfare of retired racehorses; retraining them and then re-homing them to enjoy useful lives.
This needs to be better understood so that people are willing to provide the necessary funds.
Yes . . .
Director of Animal Aid Andrew Tyler The welfare of the horses is our absolute prime concern – that’s the racing industry’s favourite mantra.
And yet, after five horses were killed during the first two days of last month’s Cheltenham Festival, I could find no mention of the deaths on the racecourse’s own website.
It is still operating a news blackout. Most national newspaper racing correspondents also gave minimal or no coverage to the fatalities.
Routine horse deaths are racing’s dirty secret. Only Animal Aid, through our Race horse Deathwatch online database, makes these fatalities public.
We began in March 2007 and the number killed already exceeds 800.
Among racing’s other dirty secrets is its over production of foals and the consequent slaughter of a great many healthy but uneconomic horses.
Then there is the pittance it provides for thoroughbreds at the end of their careers – animals it supposedly cherishes. The official ‘retraining’ centres can rehabilitate fewer than 200 of the nearly 6,000 horses leaving racing every year, due to a lack of funds.
This year’s Cheltenham victims were: Scotsirish, aged 11; Garde Champetre, aged 13; Abergavenny, aged five; and Educated Evans and Featherbed Lane, both aged seven.
They died because jump racing is intrinsically hazardous, especially so for animals highly inbred for speed, at a cost to their skeletal strength.
The risk is intensified in the noisy Cheltenham environment, featuring crowded fields and an undulating dangerously firm racing surface. Calling it a sport is a travesty.