The much-hyped Kentucky Derby will be taking place this Saturday, May 1st. It seems like every where I turn, I’m hearing or reading something about it: the contenders, the odds, the wagers, the jockeys, the hats, and so on and so forth. And yet very little is said about the cruelty of it all.
Horse racing is a brutal “sport”, and it starts with the breeding of these champion racers. Modern race horses are genetically engineered for speed instead of health and longevity. Trainers begin running the horses at age 1 or 2 when their bones are still too brittle to handle their massive body weight. They are so in-bred and over-trained that many of them suffer from broken bones, viral diseases and devastatingly painful conditions such as bleeding lungs and gastric ulcers. Many of these beautiful animals are quite literally raced to death. According to In Defense of Animals, roughly 800 race horses die from their injuries on race tracks each year in the US alone. Another 3,500+ are so severely injured they cannot finish their races. Thousands more are bred and discarded for not being fast or strong enough.
Kentucky Derby contender Eight Belles, moments before her tragic death
Race horses are often pumped full of drugs to make them run faster and to ignore their pain. When they break a leg or fail to win (to create a “return” on their owners’ investment), they are discarded – often sent to slaughter, a profitable end for the owner, but a brutal one for the animal. When not racing, these horses spend up to 23 hours of their day stabled, deprived of the herd contact and freedom of movement that would ensure physical and mental health. None of us would consider that to be acceptable treatment for our beloved pet cats and dogs, yet we look the other way when there’s profit or entertainment involved for us.
Horse racing is not a sport. Sports are activities in which the individuals involved choose to participate. Race horses have no choice. Surely horses love to run when given the freedom to do so, but forcing them to run on artificial surfaces known to increase injuries to their already fragile legs is inhumane. The whole industry from start to finish is inhumane, and this Saturday, millions of people will be watching the Derby, betting on it, and perpetuating the cruelty inherent in it. Don’t be one of them. The horse racing engine will keep speeding along until we humans stand up and demand that it stop. The victims of this “sport” cannot speak for themselves. It is up to us to do it for them.
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Posted in Animal Cruelty, Animal Rights, Animal Welfare, tagged animal advocacy, Animal Cruelty, Animal Rights, animal suffering, companion animals, dogs, dolphins, get involved, horses, humans, Michael Vick, The Cove on September 17, 2009|
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There have been SO many things I’ve wanted to write about lately, but I’ve let summer get the best of me and been a bad little blogger. In an effort to “catch up”, here are just a few of the things I’ve been thinking about the last couple months:
- If you haven’t seen the documentary THE COVE yet, you need to. It is a haunting, disturbing, thrilling, and often heartbreaking film about the dolphin trade and consequent slaughter in Japan. While it will probably make you cry if you are anything like me, it will also inspire you to see how passionate the dolphin advocates are about this issue. They will stop at nothing to end this injustice, and that depth of passion just isn’t prevalent enough. The LA Times wrote up a good review of it if you want to read more.
- Alec Baldwin wrote a great piece for the Huffington Post about the vilification of Michael Vick, and how in a lot of ways it’s hypocritical of a lot of people – specifically, if you are a meat eater, a leather-wearer, and an animal user. Not that what Vick did can be in any way condoned, mind you, but that we all need to look at what we do day-to-day to contribute to animal suffering, and ask ourselves if it’s really worth it? Are dogs any more special than pigs, cows, turkeys? Should we condemn Michael Vick while letting ourselves off the hook just because we aren’t the ones directly torturing these animals?
- This NYTimes.com article about the treatment of aging horses that have been used for racing is a great read. It talks about the need for retirement homes, essentially, for these majestic animals. About 3000 race horses are retired each year, and right now only about 1/3 of those animals find such homes. Most are abandoned or euthanized, or sometimes sold into slaughter. Quite the “thank you” for years of making their owners money, huh?
- As for our human animal counterparts, one of the stories that really got my attention this summer was about the pervasiveness and brutality of rape in Congo. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s visit to Congo this summer is what first brought my attention to this matter, and I haven’t been able to stop reading about it. It is devastating. While women are the main victims of these crimes, Congolese men are increasingly being targeted. One organization that is trying to help victims (primarily women) there is called VDay, a non profit established by Eve Ensler, who wrote The Vagina Monologues (a show I highly recommend). Check out her site and see how you can help.
With that, I promise to post more regularly – enjoy the reading! Oh, and check out my new food blog: Veg Out With Us!
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This video nicely highlights the insanity in killing “racing” horses when they become injured. I think my favorite parts are when Shawn’s mother says “it’s just so expensive to keep a lame gymnast”; and then when the host asks her if Shawn was in a lot of pain at the end, and she replies, “oh no, no, no – there was no pain – just a quick shot to the back of the head.”
Vodpod videos no longer available.
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If you’ve been following the whole debate about what to do with all the wild horses in the western United States, then you probably know that there was a possibility that thousands of these beautiful animals would be rounded up and potentially euthanized. Well, it looks like the horses might actually “win” this one, thanks to a wealthy philanthropist & horse lover, Madeleine Pickens (wife of billionaire T. Boone Pickens) who recently announced that she would adopt not just the doomed wild horses but most or all of the 30,000 horses and burros kept in federal holding pens. While she looks for land that would be appropriate for the horses, the Bureau of Land Management will continue to care for the animals for another year.
Wild horse & burro populations have become more “problematic” as of late, because while their populations are growing, the number of people willing or able to adopt them has fallen, as feed prices have skyrocketed, and the economy has dipped into a serious recession:
The federal government has been rounding up wild horses since the 1980s, putting them in holding facilities and offering them for adoption to horse lovers, who promise not to sell them for slaughter. But the roundups became aggressive under the Bush administration. As of June, BLM was holding 30,088 animals, more than triple the 9,807 held in 2001…. Meanwhile, the pace of adoptions has been falling as the cost of feeding and caring for the wild horses has skyrocketed. The price tag to federal taxpayers for maintaining the horses tripled from $7 million in 2000 to $21 million in 2007. Hay prices for one short-term holding facility in Nevada rose from about $160 per ton in 2007 to almost $300 per ton in 2008, for example.
Luckily, these American icons will not meet the fate that many of their predecessors have, thanks to Ms. Pickens.
See, this is why I should be a billionaire – I’d be a totally good billionaire! I’d save lots of animals and throw money at different non-profits that were doing animal advocacy work. AND I’d be able to volunteer my time instead of working for a paycheck. It seems ideal….so, yeah, I should be a billionaire. Heck, even being a millionaire would suffice. How can I make that happen? Dear Lottery, pick me….??
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Most of my knowledge and efforts in the animal rights arena has involved companion animals and farmed animals. Until recently, I hadn’t thought that much about the implications of things like marine parks (more on that later), zoos (ditto) and horse racing. The recent Kentucky Derby and tragic death of Eight Belles has prompted me to look at this “sport” in greater detail. A recent article in the New York Times, written by William C. Rhoden, sums things up much better than I possibly could, so you should totally go read it and then pretend that it was me saying it (don’t I sound smart?). If it doesn’t change your feelings on horse racing all together, I hope it will at least prompt you to think about it a little bit more.
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