Why I’m Taking a Stance Against Horse Racing
Spring horse racing season is upon us in Australia, so I wanted to take a few minutes to ask you to all to rethink your support of horse racing. This is an issue close to my heart, and one that, in my opinion, gets nowhere near enough promotion or education. From where I stand, there are just so many reasons why horse racing is not okay. It is a ‘sport’ that feeds directly off the exploitation of the very things it supposedly prizes: our beautiful racehorses. As always, I simply do not condone or think it in any way acceptable to support or contribute to the exploitation of animals for human financial gain. It is purely wrong.
Let’s take a look at some statistics. In the last year, we have had 122 horses killed on the Australian racetrack. This is an average of 1 racehorse dying every 3 days. The most common reason for death was injury to a front limb (61 deaths), but other major causes of death were collapse, cardiac disease and bleeds. If you want to feel a little more queasy about these statistics, 17 of these horses are still listed as ‘active’ on the Racing Australia website, even though some have been dead for almost a year.
It’s also important to note that 54 of the horses killed had been raced as a 2 year olds. This is a horrifically common practice on the Australian racetrack as investors want to get more bang for their buck. The skeletal systems of horses at this young age are not yet mature enough for the hard training and physical stress of racing, however the high returns on 2 year old races mean that many owners push trainers to have their young animals compete. It is truly shocking that almost half of the deaths on the racetrack are horses who started competing too early. A coincidence? I think not.
Yet injuries do not occur only on the track. The cruelty and exploitation of these animals begins long before they ever leave the gate. At the end of the day, it comes down to the fact that these horses are bred to run as fast as possible – it is their sole purpose in life. They have their bodies pushed well beyond normal limits, simply for financial gain. There is just so much money to be made in this industry. A common injury faced by these animals off the track are gastric ulcers. Their high concentrate grain diets fed during training, rather than extended grazing, leads to an abnormally high incidence of these. In fact, a study of racehorses at Randwick found that 89% of horses had stomach ulcers, and many of the horses had deep, bleeding ulcers within 8 weeks of the commencement of their training.
We are all versed on famous Australian horses that are revered and go down in the history books as absolute legends (think Winx, Makybe Diva, Phar Lap). But what happens to the horses that don’t successfully compete for podium placings? Many failed or older racehorses are sent to the 2 horse abattoirs in Australia. Approximately 2,000 tonnes of horse meat is exported from Australia for human consumption in Japan and Europe annually (HSI Figures). Over 25,000 horses per year are killed in this way in Australia. When I found this out, it was a complete surprise to me. It’s just another one of those things we are not educated about.
It wouldn’t be a discussion on racing season without touching on the spectacle that horse racing has become. Racing has turned into a trending celebration of all things outrageous and iconic. It is so easy now to forget that by attending the races, what we are really doing is supporting animal cruelty. And I don’t blame you, it IS easy to forget as the races operate so well under the guise of fashion, music, food and celebration. Racing events are heavily glamorised by the media, with widespread coverage of fashion, celebrity attendance and performances on the day. This year, it was a shame to see Taylor Swift put her brand behind an event that feeds off the injury and exploitation of animals. Thankfully, due to the pressure of Animal Rights groups, she has decided to withdraw from the event, a sign that perhaps we are indeed becoming more successful at educating about horseracing.
The glamorised perception of race days is further perpetuated by the way influencers are promoting racing each year. As someone who operates and interacts with my online community on a daily basis, I feel a huge responsibility to do what is right for my audience, and to promote things I believe in and educate accurately on issues I deem important - this always comes first. Sipping on champagne and getting dressed up is great fun and I love any excuse to hang out with my girl gang; I just think it should be taking place at events that don’t support such animal cruelty and gambling addictions.
Speaking of gambling addictions - it’s another huge problem in Australia. Australians are some of the world’s biggest gamblers, and we’re certainly the world’s biggest losers. Last year we lost over $22bn on gambling (that’s $1,200 per adult) and the advent of online gambling means we are showing no signs of slowing. Betting is now anonymous, online and on credit. Horse racing and gambling are so inextricably linked and so problematic for many Australians who face an addiction.
I want to say that I have no problem with people owning horses and I am positive that many racehorses are treated very well when they are performing at such an elite level. I do firmly believe that the majority of horse owners truly love their animals and care about them like their children. My problem has never been with this though. My problem is moreso about using horses as a means of exploitation and primarily for financial gain. It is around us making a profit (and a lot of it) off these horses, and around us fuelling gambling addictions through the ‘sport’. My problem is that these animals have become commoditised.
People use the reason that horses love to run as their why to support racing. I agree, they do love to run, but they also love to live, and seeing photos of horses frothing at the mouth with blood coming out of their nostrils does not look like fun to me. No part of me wants to support or promote animal cruelty. Racing has been made to look like a glamorous, fun day of celebration but there is a darker side to it and it is important to remember why exactly that is. I hope this brings to light some new information for you to consider, and I beg each and every one of you to re-think your actions, support and participation in these events over the coming months.