May 06, 2008

Why do horses run?

The worlds' most dangerous man according to the NYT is Pete Singer the philosophyer at Princeton. He is the author of "Animal Liberation" the book that has had a tremendous impact on the way humans view animals. The easiest way to gauge the impact of this book is to remember that it was instrumental in the creation of PETA.

Pete Singer is essentially a utilitarian philosopher who argues that we have a moral obligation to reduce pain and increase happiness. This fundamental principle led him to oppose , in the strongest way, the idea that animals are to be raised in order to be slaughtered for human consumption. It is also important to make it very clear that , to the est of my knowledge, his argument for animal liberation does not rest on any intrinsic rights of the animals but instead is based on the fact that we do not have the right to make any living creature suffer if it is within our power to avoid that suffering. As a result Mr. Singer would sanction slaughtering animals if that can be accomplished without causing pain to the animal.

All of the above rushed through my mind during the Kentucky Derby last Saturday. I will be the first to admit that I know nothing about horses and why they run but it seems to me that horses are trained to run and endure pain for the sake of our entertainment? My very simple question then is the following: Do we have the right to subject any animal to pain and possibly death as long as we enjoy the spectacle? Maybe it is time to reevaluate the cruel use of animals in any capacity that is designed to entertain humans by forcing the animals to endure pain. Maybe it is time to declare horse racing an illegal activity just like cock fighting. Should animals perform for our pleasure? It is time to enlarge the circle of animal liberation as to encompass all human activities that impact animal welfare whether that be laboratories, slaughter houses, circus cages or horse races just to name a few.

editor's note: more information about horses:PBS/Nature


Demos said...

Obviously we shouldn't cause harm or pain to animals for our own amusement.

The question I have is: do we subject race horses to such a condition?

In the NY Times (editorial, 5/6/08): "..But the nature of racing and breeding has changed over the years. Good horses, whose careers often begin and end before their bones are fully mature, are racing less often than they used to, which means they only need enough endurance to last a few races. That makes it all the easier to breed for the lightness of build — and the fragility — that Eight Belles showed."

This is not right.

elizabeth said...

The horse racing industry is extraordinarily complex. There are those in the industry who care nothing for the animals and only about the profit, and then there are those who love the animals dearly but do not know what is good or bad for them, and then there are those who have only the horses interests at heart and know how to provide for them the best life possible. And, of course, there are people in the racing industry who run the gamut of possibilities. It is hard to condemn the entire world of horse sports, but there are certainly some practices that should cease and desist because they do, indeed, cause suffering.

The trouble with horse racing is that it mimics so many of the problems with today's American society-- we want quick and easy results. In this case, owners and trainers want quick and easy wins and money. Owners no longer want to wait years and years while their investments (the young horses) mature. So instead the racing ages have gone lower and lower. The semen of a priced stallion, just a dose of the guy's little swimmers, can cost in the million dollar range. Yes. One million dollars for horse ejaculate. Because of this nonsense, investors are anxious for returns. The costs, then, of raising horses is equally as astronomical. With the prices of land, the cost of enough space to raise horses has become unbearable (upwards of $3000 per month per animal) and this adds to the hurry-- owners want to recoup some of that investment as quickly as they can.

Now, the truth is that it doesn't have to cost that much, but like other things in this world, the prices do not have any relation to the practicality or necessity. Racing is a sport of the rich, and so there are no caps on how much people will spend.

There are dozens of issues at play here, but ultimately, when done right, racing horses needn't be any more cruel than jogging with your pet dog.

(I am going to talk more about this on my site-- post a response on my own bandwidth.)

Andros said...

I understand the arguments about the pressure to recover expenses and make some profit, but the way things are today, racing horses are being bred in such a way as to be harmful to them. Too much muscle not enough skeleton!

I don't like to use wide brush strokes to condemn the whole sport, but I don't want to see animals being abused (bred like fighting cocks, dogs, etc) for the enjoyment of humans.

This is not even a case of survival, where I could rationalize for using animals in a brutish way, or even for food. I don't see much difference between breeding an animal for a short racing career with high risks of injury and cockfighting... except one is a sport of the very rich..