Why do we keep giving thoroughbred horse racing a pass? Is it the tradition? The millions upon millions invested in the betting?
Why isn’t there more pressure to put the sport of kings under the umbrella of animal cruelty?
The sport is at least as inhumane as greyhound racing and only a couple of steps removed from animal fighting.Is it the fact that horse racing is imbedded in the American fabric? And the Triple Crown is a nationally televised spectacle? Or is it the fact that death on the track is rarely seen by a mainstream television audience?
Another interesting article, and one that definitely looks at both sides of the sport, is a Jim Squires post on the NY Times blog The Rail: Horse Lover's View from Inside the Industry. Mr. Squires, an obvious lover of the sport, defends horse racing but also considers the many criticisms of it, and brings up some serious issues for us to think about, such as track conditions, veterinary care, owners vs. trainers, individual horse's spirit, conscientious breeding, and gambling.
Another story worth reading: Is Horse Racing Breeding Itself to Death? by Sally Jenkins at The Washington Post. Ms. Jenkins speaks to the moral crisis in racing, due in part to the current breeding of horses for spirit and physical stamina, and larger chests yet seeming increased skeletal frailty. A line from that story: Horses are being over-bred and over-raced, until their bodies cannot support their own ambitions, or those of the humans who race them. And another: According to several estimates, there are 1.5 career-ending breakdowns for every 1,000 racing starts in the United States. That's an average of two per day.
Many of these same articles have mentioned a similar - though less noticed - accident just the day before the Derby: a colt named Chelokee dislocated an ankle at Kentucky Oaks and has only a 50% chance of survival. Regardless, the injury has ended the horse's career and we just hope the poor animal doesn't wind up as dog food (though it's been suggested that he might spend his days as stud service).
On another note about equine sports, check out the excellent blog Teachings of the Horse, specifically the post Too Much, Too Fast, Too Hard. In this post, author Victoria Cummings muses on the equestrian sport of Eventing, and the tragedies - and reasons for them - in that sport of late.
For a more immediate reaction to this Derby incident, with links to NBC Sports and ESPN stories, read yesterday's post Eight Belles - Derby Horse Euthanized on Track.