There’s been a lot of buzz this week about allegations of abuse against two highly placed racehorse trainers.http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/20/sports/peta-accuses-two-trainers-of-cruelty-to-horses.html?_r=0 The charges stemmed from an under-cover operation taken on by the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA)–a member of which worked under cover in the training barn and secretly filmed the activities there. PETA is claiming that race horses are running sore, the trainers treat them with little regard outside of their ability to earn money, and in a pervasive drug culture. The drug culture alludes to the use of joint injections, masking painkillers, and any means of keeping the horse running when it should be rested or retired. As a result of this charges, investigations are underway. The trainers are being pulled from the racing Hall of Fame. Fines, banning from racing, all manner of punishment are being discussed. I do not condone the behavior of these trainers (if true) nor make light of the seriousness of the charges against the racing industry–these horses need to be protected. But, just for one moment, let us imagine how things would play out of the trainers were, let’s say, football players. In the NFL, players have been charged with vehicular manslaughter, assault, dog fighting, drugging, and yes, murder, but have in some cases come back to play the sport. Really? At least in the case of the charges against the racehorse trainers, a lot of discussion about curbing and regulating the use of drugs in the industry has been stimulated as a result. Caring and conscientious owners want to see bad practices stopped. Race horse rescue and rehoming organizations, which arguably stand to inherit the worst of racing casualties, are keen to see that racers don’t come off the tracks body sore, lame, and broken. Everyone has an interest in seeing that the horses can go on to live full lives in another career. So despite the horror of this story I still have hope. I have hope because people are taking it seriously, despite the power of the all-mightly dollar, unlike the NFL, and I have hope because the good people of racing are trying their hardest to make it better. And believe me, the drug culture and distain for the value of non-performing horses is not limited to the racing world. Indeed, there are show barns in every discipline where the horses are injected and drugged as long as they can keep going, and then sold down the road to anyone when they can’t. The advances in drugs and other treatments is a great thing. Indeed, I’ve had horses injected, but in order to keep them comfortable a gently brought back to work. I’m not against the drugs, I’m against them being used as a mask instead of rest and rehabilitation. Where the dollar is god, the horse will suffer. Sadly, as humans, we all have a long way to go.
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