Horse racing is one of the oldest sports in existence, and has become a multi-billion dollar industry, with tens of thousands of horses bred specifically for this purpose. Despite popular boycott on other animals being used for entertainment, millions of people still support the industry by attending and betting on races and events.
Horse racing places extreme stress on horses, with their jockeys pushing them to increase speed beyond comfortable levels. Dr. Holly Cheever, an award winning veterinary surgeon noted “cruelty is an inherent part of the horse racing industry.” Studies have confirmed that even padded whips do hurt horses when they are struck with them, and that they can cause inflammation, bruising and trauma. A study on injuries during races concluded that one horse in every 22 races suffered an injury which prevented them from finishing a race. According to the Jockey Club’s own database, two horses are fatally injured on tracks every day. Horses who do not die from their injuries are commonly killed, often due to the fact that their veterinary fees are often not considered worth paying for a horse who can no longer race. Official figures from the BRA shows that 811 horses died in race meetings between 2010 and 2013 in Britain alone. In the world’s most famous race, The Grand National, the death toll is nearly one in 40. Even for horses who do not stumble, the sheer intensity of races and the stress it puts on the horses means that fatal collapse is common.
The track is not the only place where horses endure cruelty. High demand for racing foals causes the industry to over-breed horses in order to get a “winning specimen,” but most horses do not make the grade. It has been estimated that only 300 out of every 1,000 horses purpose-bred for racing will actually race, the rest will be discarded. Those who do make it to race often become injured or fail to meet expectations. Failed and injured racehorses no longer have the potential to return a profit and so have very little commercial value. They are are usually sent to slaughter, more than 10,000 U.S thoroughbreds are sent to slaughterhouses in Canada and Mexico per year. The most successful are sent to stud, where they are treated as mere breeding machines, being forced to inseminate up to 400 mares per year. There is “collateral damage” even to get the horses to racing age; foals are often taken from their mothers so that their mothers can become nurse mares, using their milk to feed a more profitable foal. Their own foals are often killed or sent to auction. Many horses from the racing industry disappear from records entirely, even the sport’s official body, the Horse-racing Regulatory Authority, admitted that the industry “doesn’t really know what definitely happens to the horses when they stop racing.”
Horses in the racing industry are bred, raced and often slaughtered, all for profit. Breeding an animal into existence for the sole purpose of exploiting them for person gain or entertainment is clearly exploitation; these are intelligent, highly social and emotionally complex animals who deserve do not to be treated as mere commodities. Supporting this industry by paying for tickets or betting on races puts money into the hands of breeders, jockeys and slaughterhouses. So long as horse racing is profitable, it will continue to take place. If we disagree with these practices, it is up to us to vote with our money and boycott this exploitative, cruel and corrupt industry.