I’m a keen follower of the Animal Aid website Race Horse Death Watch. It was set up in 2007 after the annual carnage at the Cheltenham Festival. Since then there have been 2026 horse deaths in 4702 days. It is a statistic the horse racing and betting industries would rather you didn’t see. But there it is in black and white. A race horse dies every two and a bit days.
For the life of me, I cannot understand the attraction of horse racing. Of all sports, it is the one in which the main participants have no idea they are competing. We have no idea whether they enjoy running and jumping and we have no idea whether they are frightened. We can safely assume the horse does not enjoy the bit when he breaks a leg, the safety curtain is raised and it is shot in the head. Who went on to win, by the way? Mine’s a Guinness if you’re off to the bar.
I wonder why it is that no one gives a toss about horse fatalities. I used to watch the Grand National and wince as the horses leapt over Becher’s Brook, tumbling over on the other side. The cameras would linger with the leaders and only at the end would we learn how many horses had died. That’s so sad. But anyway, it’s over to (insert name of commentator) for the next race. Horses are expendable, I suppose. It’s what animals are for.
I can hardly speak from the moral high ground since I am not even vegetarian, never mind vegan. I pay money to eat dead animals. I’d like to think that the dead animals I eat, AKA meat, are stunned before being killed and that they had a happy life before they ended up on my plate. It’s a struggle to write this stuff. But race horses are bred to race, they are given stupid names and when they die in a race, well, it’s an occupational hazard.
Nowadays, I don’t watch horse-racing on telly and would never dream of attending a meeting in person. I’d hate to be near the fence where the horse lands on its neck, or breaks its leg, squealing in agony before being put out of its misery and carted off to the knackers yard.
Only eight dead horses so far in 2020. That’s only one every three days, so things must be getting better. Or perhaps it’s just a lull, a blip, possibly caused by adverse weather, and we can get back to normal in the weeks and months ahead. After all, they shoot horses, don’t they?