Tuesday, May 6, 2008

PETA's reaction to Eight Belles's death

The death of Eight Belles, the Thoroughbred filly who was euthanized at the Kentucky Derby after breaking both front legs, has gotten a lot of media attention — as well it should. Probably unsurprisingly, PETA has made some demands of the horse racing industry in the aftermath of Eight Belles's tragic accident:

1) That the jockey who was riding Eight Belles be questioned and possibly suspended. However, Gabriel Saez claims that he had no indication that she was having problems before the accident actually happened. Eight Belles's trainer, Larry Jones, has publicly defended the jockey.

2) That training for race horses not even begin until they are 3 years old. The bones in their legs haven't stopped growing until about this age, and so may be more susceptible to injury.

3) That the use of crops and whips should be banned. I've heard some people argue against this, saying that some horses are "lazy" and need the reminder to keep going and run their hardest. Personally, I don't think a horse that doesn't want to race is any lazier than I am for not wanting to run a marathon. If the horse doesn't want to run without that "reminder," you probably should be looking for a different horse to compete.

4) Limit how many races a horse can compete in each year. I believe the thinking here is that too many races in too short a time weaken the horse's legs and make injuries more likely.

5) Mandate synthetic race tracks, instead of dirt tracks. I guess injuries are less common on synthetic tracks.

It all seems pretty reasonable to me, especially considering that PETA probably would rather the industry not exist at all. You already know my feelings on horse racing, so it probably won't surprise you that I support PETA's demands.

I hope that if nothing else, this incident will create more awareness and empathy for plight of race horses.

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