A horse race is an event in which horses are competed against one another for money. The sport has a variety of different races, but the most prestigious are called handicap races. These are races in which each horse is assigned a specific amount of weight to carry. This weight is based on the horse’s ability, but allowances are also made for gender and age. The goal is to make the races as fair as possible.
Despite their beauty and grandeur, many horses are not happy living in the confines of a racetrack. They are often drugged, whipped and forced to work at speeds far beyond their capacity. They are often injured and bleed from their lungs, which can be a fatal condition known as exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhage. And, even when not injured, most racehorses spend the vast majority of their lives in solitary confinement in a stall. According to PETA, ten thousand American thoroughbreds are killed each year.
For these reasons, horse racing has earned a reputation as a cruel and corrupt business. But, as The New York Times recently reported, there are a few people who run the sport who truly care about its athletes and who are willing to put in the time and effort needed to ensure that it remains a honest and ethical industry.
The first category, the crooks, is a small and feral minority that cheats dangerously to win money. They are, sadly, the face of horse racing. The second category, the dupes, labor under the false belief that the sport is broadly fair and honest. And, the third, the honorable masses, see that it is more crooked than it ought to be but are afraid to stand up and do anything about it.
While the crooks and the dupes do their best to cover up for the ills of horse racing, their apologists are doing their best to deflect criticism and dismiss it as “anti-racing.” In reality, however, this is just an attempt to distract attention from the fact that serious reform is needed.
In the past, the apologists have tried to blame criticism of the industry on PETA and have dismissed the validity of its claims. But, this is a mistake. Virtually no one outside of racing cares how PETA gets its video or about the organization’s politics; they only care about what is shown on it.
The apologists have tried to argue that criticism of the industry is motivated by hostility toward PETA, but this is also a mistake. Hostility toward the organization is entirely justified, but it is not a reason to dismiss its work. The apologists have also attempted to argue that the industry’s problems are not caused by animal cruelty, but again this is a mistake. Animal cruelty is a symptom, not the cause, of the problem. The real cause is the systemic, systematic abuse that is inflicted on the animals. The apologists must recognize this and begin to address it.