“Last year more than 100,000 people attended the Melbourne Cup, with more than 3 million watching the race on TV in Australia alone. This would have to make whipping in horse-racing the most public form of violence to animals in Australia today, but most people don’t seem to notice it. …most appear blithely unaware that they are actually watching horses being whipped … and hard.” (Dr. Paul McGreevy)
As advocates, it can be easy to get lost in any number of Horseracing’s sordid aspects: 2-year-olds, drugging/doping, corrupt “connections,” negligent vets, claiming races, etc. But for me, focus should be trained on two above all:
First and foremost, Horseracing kills horses – lots of them, every day.
Second, the horserace itself exists, can only exist, through brute force – the primary instrument of which is a whip. A whip. On this, Racing’s age-old lie (painless “guide”) has conditioned otherwise decent people to ignore their very senses, eschew a common sense. Well, this is intolerable. So at the risk of insulting the intelligence of many of you, let me state (shout) what should be the clear, the plain, the obvious: Whipping a domesticated (enslaved) animal – any domesticated animal, for whatever concocted reason – is cruelty defined. Absolutely, unequivocally, beyond all doubt.
Sadly, though, some still ask for “scientific proof.” Enter Paul McGreevy – veterinarian, ethologist, professor of animal behavior/animal welfare science at the University of Sydney. Follows are some highlights from a McGreevy-penned article that originally appeared in The Conversation.
Pain and distress may be difficult to evaluate in animals. Unless there is evidence to the contrary, it must be assumed that procedures and conditions that would cause pain and distress in humans cause pain and distress in animals. Given there is no evidence to show that whipping horses doesn’t hurt, I decided to find out whether having my leg struck with a racing whip, as hard as jockeys whip horses, would cause me pain and distress.
Well, the answer is a resounding “yes”, and the thermographic images I took clearly show heat at the site of impact. In the image below you can see white areas of inflammation in my upper leg 30 minutes after it was struck – only once. And a warning: this material is disturbing.
My view is that – because there is no evidence to the contrary – we must assume that, just as I felt pain and distress from the impact of the padded whip, similar whipping in a horse would also cause pain and distress.
Representatives from the racing industry will doubtless say horses have thick skin and are therefore immune to pain from whip impacts but there is actually no evidence of such pain resistance in horses. Indeed, horses can feel a fly on their skin such that it triggers a characteristic shake called the “panniculus reflex”.
As sports journalist Patrick Smith recently wrote: “If whips didn’t cause pain there would be no use to them.”