Over 1,200 race horses die at the track every year
Is the same true of thoroughbred racing?
There has been a lot of attention paid to this issue recently. An HBO show about thoroughbred racing decided to shut down production after its third horse had to be euthanized. It's hard not to see the irony: a show aimed at exposing the seamy underbelly of the racing trade couldn't help but fall victim to it. Even though the show operated under strict supervision, and worked closely with Humane Society agents, the tragedies happened.
What happened on the set of "Lucky" is one thing. It's just the tip of the iceberg. In the real world, thoroughbreds are dying left and right. They die because they are drugged (to hide the pain, to increase performance, to look undamaged) and they die because we have bred them to be unsupportably delicate.
Heavy, sturdy leg bones are a liability in a race horse. Dense bone slows the horse down, by fractions of a second. But a fraction of a second is all it takes to lose. So there is a war of escalation among thoroughbred breeders: who can breed the horse with the longest, flimsiest legs? And unsurprisingly, if you take a young animal with long flimsy legs and make it run at top speed, it will often stumble and fall. Its legs snap with the force of its running and the weight of its body.
Eight Belles was only three years old when she stumbled at the end of a race and destroyed both of her front ankles. Her injuries were so severe that she couldn't be moved off the track, and was euthanized where she fell. Sportswriter Sally Jenkins wrote that "She ran with the heart of a locomotive, on champagne-glass ankles." The same is true of all race horses, simply because of the demands of human fashion.
And of course, the money. It's always about the money.
Over 1,200 race horses die at the track every year. As the California Racing Board's veterinarian said, "In humans you never see someone snap their leg off running in the Olympics. But you see it in horse racing."
So what do you think, thoroughbred racing: inhumane or not?