Catalyst, an Australian science show, recently ran this segment on the whip. The entire program is worth a look, but one quote in particular stands out. Australian Racing Board chief Peter McGauran: “That [not shifting from pain] would have been learned behaviour, agreed. Under the old days [prior to new whip/whipping rules] I concede that the horses learnt to absorb the punishment afforded them.”
The “old days”? 2009. Yes, that’s right, here we have a prominent racing executive admitting that as recently as five years ago, his jockeys inflicted “punishment” on his horses – punishment, by the way, seemingly well-“absorbed” due to learned helplessness. Imagine that. Yet I wonder, Mr. McGauran, does this mean that back in the “old days” you were sharing that opinion far and wide, or were you, like the rest, singing that decades-old industry line of the whip as “painless guide”? Please.
Oh, and one final note, Mr. McGauran: There is no past tense about this (“it was broken, so we fixed it”) – as the piece (science, common sense) makes abundantly clear, a whip in the hands of a racehorse jockey will always be an instrument of intimidation, conveyor of pain. Put another way, your kinder, gentler whipping is a lie. To steal a line from Clinton ’92, it’s animal cruelty, stupid. And ever it will be.