Are Racehorses Being Damaged and Killed For Human Entertainment?

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Are you for or against horse racing?

Would you define it as cruelty to racehorses?

Should horse racing be banned?

Check out my video response below:

Plenty more of my videos on YouTube

I am feeling somewhat conflicted about my interest in horse racing. Every year, without fail, I watch specific races and place bets but only participate during the Melbourne Cup, in particular the main race at  Emirates Cup and certain races throughout Derby day. I admit that I never looked any further into the industry up until 2014. The thoroughbred industry has come under fire over the past few years for its treatment of horses.

Despite these claims I am still planning on going to my local TAB to put on my bets and I will still watch certain races.

The main complaints include the following:

  • Musculoskeletal horse injuries can occur due to racing and training.
  • Whipping horses while they are racing is still common even though University of Sydney studies show that horses run faster when they are not whipped.
  • A significant amount of injured and failed racehorses are sent to knackeries in order to be processed into pet food.
  • 89% of horses develop gastric ulcers, which worsen with training and racing, due to high concentrate diets as opposed to natural organic grazing.
  • Solitary confinement is common among racehorses, which leads to abnormal behaviour including crib-biting, box walking, and wind sucking due to lack of social interaction.
Animal activists claim that 127 race horses died within 2015. The statistics show that on track deaths make up for less than one per cent of all racehorses. Yet there are many thousands more that are killed away from the track and the public eye, in particular thoroughbreds who aren’t “good enough” to race. In addition many horses who become injured during racing simply disappear. Activists estimate that between twelve to fifteen thousand racehorses disappear and go to slaughterhouses.

During the 2014 carnival racehorse Admire Ratke collapsed and died in his stall. The same year racehorse Araldo had to be put down because of a large fractured bone in his lower leg. Horses are not designed to recover well from these sorts of injuries. Combining the weight of a horse with the speed they race at can result in injuries which are beyond repair. The head of Veterinary and Equine welfare, Dr Brian Stewart, examined Admire Ratke and believed that the animal died of acute heart failure with a combination of exertion playing a major part in his demise. It is a very rare occurrence in humans and horses.

Dr Steward stood by the racing industry over this matter “I’m an advocate for horse racing. Horses are natural athletes. They are naturally born to run fast. Horses in the wild race to the front of the mob. Horses racing in pain or being pushed by all accounts are definitely not true”.

Racing Victoria insists that over 90% of racehorses that are injured, retired or are not fit to race in the first place are comfortably retired to equestrian farms or are bought/adopted by horse lovers who look after them on their own private farms. Horses only suffer from stomach ulcers if the feed given is not mixed in with hay. A properly fed racehorse should not develop stomach ulcers.The behavior observed in stabled horses can also occur out of stables. It depends on the personality of the horse. Some horses simply don’t like being boxed in.

Animals used for human entertainment always evokes a degree of guilt in me. It’s not something I’m completely comfortable with. But I can’t bring myself to completely side with the argument against. Many of the stated issues surrounding racehorses is also present in general equestrian sport. There is no controversy surrounding riding for pleasure even though horses suffer injuries and occasional death from general equestrian.

I don’t believe horse racing should be banned. I would be in favour of Racing Australia investing in horse farms specialising in the care of former racehorses.  The well being of racehorses throughout their entire lives should be a top priority. Horses are beautiful animals and deserve greater respect, particularly once racehorses have “retired”.  The knackery process is another major concern. Even if 10% of retired racehorses are going to knackeries, its 10% too many. My idea for the implementation of speciality retired racehorse care farms will be the best thing that we could give to these noble creatures.

Check out my article on the horrors of Spring Carnival Racing here

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