Thursday, the Albany (NY) Times Union ran an article entitled “What football and horse racing have in common” – football injuries, racehorse deaths (prompted, of course, by the current batch of kills at Saratoga). Inane, sure. But so very dangerous, too. First – and I can’t believe this needs repeating – the obvious (from our website):
If horseracing is a sport, then that word must be redefined, for the competitive racing of horses resembles no other accepted sport on the planet:
In what other sport are the bodies of adolescent athletes pounded into the ground?
In what other sport are the athletes typically kept confined/isolated 23 hours a day?
In what other sport are the athletes condemned to a life as (literal) chattel?
In what other sport are the athletes drugged and doped without consent?
In what other sport are the athletes whipped for motivation?
In what other sport are the athletes regularly dying on the playing field?
In what other sport are most of the retired brutally slaughtered for their meat?
But, as mentioned, there is a (deadly) serious component to all this. The words of Chris Churchill, a respected journalist and author of this piece, carry sway. By even mentioning horseracing in the same breath as football (or any other human-only activity), by calling it a sport five separate times in a relatively short article, Churchill clearly sends the message that there is nothing philosophically objectionable to horseracing; it just needs a little cleaning up (“Get rid of Lasix,” his expert says). This message – shared by the miserable HSUS – will help sentence countless more horses to horrific deaths. It will because no matter what supposed “reforms” come down the pike, horses will continue to die on American racetracks. It’s inevitable.
To be fair, though, Churchill does hit on something by bringing youth football into the discussion. As he notes, it’s becoming increasingly clear that parents and schools are putting young brains at risk on American gridirons. It’s also becoming increasingly clear that at some point someone (the state) is going to have to step in and stop it – to speak for and protect children. Or, exactly what domesticated animals require. Therein, the commonality: children and animals, animals and children – the voiceless, the most vulnerable members of our society.
But even at that, there remains one glaring difference. Of even the worst of these parents – the ones forcing their kids to play out of their own egos or insecurities – it can’t be said that their sons are slaves. Not so with racehorses. Throwing around words like “sport” and “athlete” does nothing to change the fact that horses are things to be used, pieces of property to be freely traded on an open market. By definition, property has no rights. Legally, a “horseman” can do virtually whatever he wishes to his horse – even run him into the ground. It (yes, “it”) is his. A practical, workable safety net simply does not, nor can it ever, exist. Property is property.
Mr. Churchill, please don’t confuse and distract the public. Horseracing is not football (or baseball, or soccer, or…). It is the subjugation and exploitation of a weaker species; subjugation and exploitation are necessarily cruel. Take a stand. Please.