Is Horse Racing Ethical?

Is Horse Racing Ethical?

What do you know about the world of horse racing? Have you been to a horse race or watched one on TV? If yes, do you have a favorite horse or race?

Did you know that horsing was once one of the most popular sports in America and nearly every newspaper had a horse racing page? In fact, three horses (Secretariat, Man o’ War and Citation) and two jockeys (Willie Shoemaker and Eddie Arcaro) were included in ESPN’s 100 greatest athletes of the 20th century.

While the sport’s popularity has declined in recent years, nearly $12 billion is bet annually at North American racetracks, and the Dubai World Cup has a winner’s purse of $12 million.

Late last month, a horse was euthanized after a terrible fall during a race at Santa Anita Park in California — the 23rd death there in just over three months, igniting a longstanding debate:

Is horse racing ethical?

In “Death of Another Horse at Santa Anita Rocks the Racing Industry,” Joe Drape writes:

Horse racing is among America’s oldest sports and perhaps the only one ever run out of the White House: Andrew Jackson operated a stable there during his presidency. Yet the multibillion-dollar industry is reeling as the Kentucky Derby approaches, with the death of yet another thoroughbred at the premier Santa Anita Park in California amplifying anxiety over whether the sport will continue in the state.

On Sunday, a gelding named Arms Runner fell during a race, sustaining a catastrophic injury to its right front leg that required the horse to be euthanized. It was the 23rd equine fatality since Dec. 26, and it came on only the third day of racing at the track since it had halted competition on March 5.

“I’m concerned about the publicity we’ve been getting,” said Bob Baffert, the Hall of Fame trainer who won the Triple Crown with American Pharoah in 2015 and with Justify last year. “This is our March Madness. But we’re having the wrong kind of madness. We feel like we’re all under the gun. We should be under the gun. You can’t defend a horse getting hurt.”

The track, in Arcadia, Calif., northeast of Los Angeles, had been closed to study why it had become so deadly, as well as to begin putting in place aggressive, wide-ranging drug and safety protocols. The spike was startling considering that in 2017, there were 20 deaths in a total of 8,463 starts over a span of 122 racing days at Santa Anita, according to Jockey Club data.

The racetrack, however, will remain open after the most recent fatality and on Saturday will host one of its signature races, the Santa Anita Derby, an important steppingstone for 3-year-old horses hoping to line up for the Kentucky Derby on May 4.

“We know what the stakes are and understand that we might be the place that kills horse racing in California,” said Tim Ritvo, chief operating officer of the Stronach Group, which owns the track. “Yes, we are worried, but we are confident that the track is safe and have gone the extra mile on rules that put us more in line with the rest of the world. We got to keep our doors open.”

The horse deaths have become a rallying point for the animal rights movement, which is particularly strong in California, where it would take 600,000 signatures on a petition to prompt a ballot initiative on whether horse racing should continue to exist. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has asked Gov. Gavin Newsom to form an independent panel to investigate how the track, breeders, owners, trainers, jockeys and veterinarians treat the horses.

“The veterinarians and trainers and track have not done all that they can to protect the horses,” said Kathy Guillermo, a PETA vice president.

The article concludes:

For decades, horse racing has experienced spikes in fatalities without adopting significant changes. The Horseracing Integrity Act of 2019 was introduced in Congress last month by Representatives Paul Tonko, Democrat of New York, and Andy Barr, Republican of Kentucky. The bill would create a private, independent authority responsible for developing and administering a nationwide antidoping and medication control program for horse racing.

“I think it has a better chance to pass today,” Janney said. “Every sport, every industry, has to change with the times. This is a scary time, but every undertaking is a result of getting a glimpse at the downside of staying where you are.”

Students, read the entire article, then tell us:

— Is horse racing ethical? Make the case for or against the morality of the sport.

— What is your relationship to horses? Have you ever ridden or cared for a horse? How does your experience affect your views on the sport of horse racing?

— In a related article, Lord Teddy Grimthorpe, the owner of Enable, who was named the European Horse of the Year for 2017, said:

All the good trainers will tell you that a horse has to have certain levels of athletic ability. There is no question of that, but I think the real X-factor is having the mind to actually want to do it and having that joy of wanting to gallop. Enable does. She wants to be out, and she wants to be running. That’s her natural way. She doesn’t like being left in the stable.

What is your reaction to Lord Grimthorpe’s statement? Do you think it can be said that a horse enjoys its role as a racehorse?

— What do you think could make the sport safer? If you believe horse racing is unethical or should be banned entirely, what do you think about the use of animals in other sports like rodeos or bull fighting?

— Are you a fan of horse racing? Have the recent deaths at Santa Anita Park changed your views? Will you watch the Kentucky Derby next month?