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Only Having the Passion for Protecting Racehorses Is Not Enough

2015/11/11 — 20:09

Source: Emily Jones’s Facebook

Source: Emily Jones’s Facebook

Source: 一日之計在於晨的facebook page

Source: 一日之計在於晨的facebook page

Yesterday a few of my friends shared either English or Chinese version of Emily Jones’s post in the above about the critique of horse racing, which seized my attention to read it in order to see whether there is any new reasonable argument in this issue. However, after reading it, I was very disappointed about it not because of Emily’s stance but because of her ridiculous explanation. I will explain how ridiculous the arguments she offered  are in below:

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       Firstly, while Emily Jones attributed racehorses’ different kinds of injury to jockeys’ uses of whip, the fact was that many injured racehorses had the incident before the jockeys gave any signal to them to accelerate (and in many cases the jockeys had little choice but to stop their racehorses as soon as possible). Emily only showed the percentages of racehorses which were injured but not the research results about the correlation between whipping racehorses and making them injured, not to mention about what kind of source it is.

       Indeed Australia has had the legal regulation to restrict the times of jockeys’ uses of whip in every race. This is not yet happened in Hong Kong and Japan, but these two places do not have as high racehorses’ death rates as the reported Australia’s one. One possible investigation direction can be whether the legal regulation is effective. But more important is that Emily proved nothing about what she wanted to say. There are many other reasons for racehorses to be injured. Say, if the condition of racehorses was not superb enough but they were forced to compete in the high level of race (consider the cases of DIVINE TEN, LUGER and AEROVELOCITY in Hong Kong), or they competed too frequently, they would have the higher risk to be injured. This, again, is not highly related to the use of whip. I haven’t said that the use of whip must be irrelevant in any case, but based on Emily’s writing only, I cannot find any evidence or reasonable argument for supporting her claim that “all [horses] will be thrashed by a whip”.

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Further, Emily has little understanding about training the racehorses. As she wrote, “During training, these horses spend approximately 22 hours of every day alone in a stall the size of a bedroom, resulting in digestive and behavioural abnormalities. They are drugged to mask the pain from being overworked, and fed food with unnaturally high energy content.”

       However, the fact is that the racehorses receive different kinds of training, such as fast trotting, galloping, swimming, and using the walking machine. Though most of the racehorses do not have all kinds of training every day, there are at least some combinations of them in most of the days. In addition to it, they have to do some cool down exercises, and horse grooms have to wash and massage the racehorses quite frequently in order to make sure that their blood circulation remains good. It was certainly true that there might be some cases happened in the small provinces or villages of Australia which were quite matched with what Emily mentioned, but the better solution should be the implementation of the reasonable minimum requirements for all jockey clubs to organize races. Enlarging the sizes of stalls in Australia is not a difficult task since it is a big country.

In addition to it, eating some “food with unnaturally high energy content” doesn’t necessary mean that the racehorses are being mistreated. Since the status of racehorses is equal to sportspersons, what they eat is sensibly different with what the other horses and the ordinary public eats. In the contemporary world, there is seldom a food which is completely natural, and whether the food has unnaturally high energy content is a matter of degree. For example, vitamin pills also contain unnaturally high energy content, but it is very normal for racehorses and sportspersons to eat them. Undoubtedly, there is the possibility that the trainers sacrifice the racehorses’ health in exchange for wins via feeding doping. Yet the most viable way of protecting the racehorses is to enhance the measuring of their body temperature, the taking of blood samples and urine samples for further testing in order to ensure that they are not fed by doping.

Crucially, I quite disagree with Emily’s reason for supporting her claim that the racehorses are overworked. If all racehorses really spent 22 hours per day in their stalls, I'm afraid that I don't understand how they were being overworked. I, again, neither said that all racehorses are not overworked nor spent 22 hours per day in their stalls, but they are almost impossible to be happened simultaneously. One may further argue that it is possible for a racehorse to receive over-intense training for 2 hours, and then is “sentenced” to the stall for the remaining 22 hours. If the “golden formula” of training racehorses is “simple” to this extent, the trainers will have little worry about how to promote the condition of racehorses. Yet this is another oversimplification of the operation of training racehorses. It will be nonsense for the sensible trainers to train the racehorses with high intensity at all times, especially when the race of a racehorse is approaching (1 to 2 days before the race) or when they are in the off-reason. And in comparison, the intensity of racing is somehow lower than the intensity of race. Those who have common sense about training racehorses will know that racehorses need not have the training of the intensity of racing in order to maintain good condition. Having the training of the intensity of racing is nonsense because racehorses will thus spend long time to recover or recuperate.

It is also naïve to believe that all racehorses “are drugged to mask the pain from being overworked”. The primary aim of wearing gear, such as blinker with one cowl only, hood, pacifier with cowls, pacifier with 1 cowl, shadow roll, sheepskin cheek pieces, visor, sheepskin browband and sheepskin cheek piece 1 side, is to do the utmost to ensure that the racehorses feel comfortable to and concentrate on racing, but not all racehorses can adapt to wear any gear. There are numerous racehorses which do not wear any gear to race, though it doesn’t necessary mean that they are not fed by doping. More importantly, the vets have to check the racehorses which run into the first two position (sometimes include the 3rd) and which performances are unusually improved or bad soon after the race (usually within 15 minutes), which need to take off their gear. In this arrangement, it is unbelievable that the vets cannot find that the checked racehorses “are drugged to mask the pain from being overworked” if there is any.

Finally, Emily’s understanding about the career of racehorses was absurd. In fact, “the average ‘career’ of a racehorse is 3 years” quite makes the common sense of horse racing because the majority of them could only maintain in the top forms for less than 3 years, especially those super precocious racehorses. When they are retired, the elite racehorses with breeding ability will be sent to different pastures for breeding purpose. Most of the other elite racehorses without breeding ability will be sent to a variety of ranches for having relaxed life until they die. I can say extending their career is crueller than retiring them.

       While this luck only belongs to the elite class, there are still many other options for handling the remaining racehorses after their retirement, such as changing them for horsemanship’s, public riding’s or even tourism’s purposes. Saying the cruel words like the numbers of racehorse being ‘discarded’ (25,000 per year [1]) are obviously smaller than that of the numbers of pig, cow and sheep does not contribute to the fruitful discussion of this issue. After all, any excessive killing is morally condemnable. But we have to ask why the racehorses are killed for feeding the dogs especially when their meat does not have higher nutritional values than other types of meat to the dogs. If the reason was that their price is cheaper, the solution should be impose a taxation of selling racehorses’ meat to subsidise the development of protecting racehorses. The taxation can also be imposed to the owners who sell/transfer their racehorse(s) to the food manufacturers so as to make the costs of selling/transferring for eating purpose higher than the costs of keeping their racehorses. If there are some other reasons for causing it, careful investigation should be launched in order to avoid jumping to the conclusion hastily that horse racing is the main reason for the large amounts of racehorses being killed for the eating purpose.

It is certainly true that animal rights activists advocate the ban of eating meat, and I am personally beyond doubt standing on the side of against eating racehorses’ meat even if there was only 1 racehorse being eaten per year because I love racehorses, but there is no evidence to suggest that horse racing results in higher rates of eating meat. It is easy to imagine that it's not difficult to forbid the racehorses to be killed for the eating purpose, and it is perhaps worthwhile to do so, but the intensity and the amounts of eating meat will not decrease because of this measure.

So please re-consider the argument(s) if one really wants to protect the racehorses. These kinds of arguments will "assist" the jockey clubs to win easily in the "judicial review" (if any).

 

Note:

[1] Thanks my university friend, Billy Lai-lok HEUNG, for sharing me Jeff Dowsing’s article titled “The cruelty of the Melbourne Cup” which was published in The Guardian on 30 November 2013 (Wednesday). 

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