It is often questioned whether horse racing is cruel, especially during the Aintree Grand National or Cheltenham Festival’s. Coming from myself who has worked at courses around the country for five years before university, I have an interest in the sport and a love of animals, I feel the honest answer is no.
It is easy for PETA and other organisations to jump at the animal cruelty accusations but the truth is, those horses eat better than most of us students. They are treated like royalty and kept immaculate in hundreds of acres of land. They also enjoy what they do, which seems odd to say as they can’t express their own happiness. But, you can spot a horse that does not want to race a mile off. If a horse does not want to run it simply won’t. This is seen when horses refuse to start or throw their riders off. Also, whilst running they can pull themselves off course and stop running if they feel tired or don’t want to continue.
There have been measures put in place over the Grand National Course and others similar around the world to improve the safety of the horses including moving the start lines so they’re away from the crowds without deafening noise and improving the safety of the fences and hurdles which the horses jump.
Unfortunately, some horses do suffer injuries which become untreatable without causing them more pain and in awful circumstances have to be euthanised, which you would say is cruel but it would be more cruel to keep them alive and in pain. I do see the cruelty in an animal dying for the sake of a sport however this has statistically reduced massively since earlier decades of horse racing thanks to the improvements made at courses.
Misuse of the whip has become an issue in horse racing meaning jockey’s over-use their cane on their horse to encourage them to run faster in the final few furlongs of each race. I agree that, yes, this is cruel. I stand with the view that jockey’s who misuse the whip should receive fines or bans for their mistreatment.
Ultimately, based on an inside view of the time and love that goes into keeping these horses healthy and happy, I can say I do not think the sport on the whole or the Grand National Festival itself is cruel. The horses are basically athletes who have an amazing talent which they can showcase for five or so years. Their lives don’t end when their racing career does, their owners either keep them as pets or place them in retired racehorse sanctuaries for them to spend many more happy years.
It is understandable why people can view the sport or the Festival itself as cruel but as a lover of animals with an inside view of the treatment of horses, I believe that people who mistreat or leave their animals without food or leave them unclean is in fact more cruel than horses racing around a track.