Horse races are an engaging form of entertainment in which horses ridden by jockeys race around a course made of dirt or turf tracks, with prize money awarded to both winners and runners-up. Some critics consider horse racing inhumane, encouraging animal cruelty; others view horse races as traditional entertainment with improvements made by the industry to make the experience safer for the horses themselves.
In the 1830s, horse racing was an incredible national pastime, drawing spectators from far across America to its numerous four-mile heats. An English traveler noted that such races aroused more interest than presidential elections. By the turn of the century, these events attracted millions of people, some traveling hundreds of miles just to attend them.
Today’s sporting landscape is experiencing a decline in fans and revenue; fewer horses are entering races; many owners are cutting budgets; this decline, likely caused by greater awareness of its darker aspects, is an inexorable sign that American culture and society is evolving, with people acknowledging horses are sentient beings with fundamental rights that require protection and consideration.
Horse racing industry cruelty is pervasive and systemic. There are three groups of people involved: crooks who drug their horses dangerously to defraud unsuspecting public; dupes who labor under the illusion that this industry is generally fair; and honorable souls who know that sport is more unfair than it ought to be but fail to take steps necessary for improvement.
There are various ways in which horseracing has been compromised: illegal drugs; abusive training practices and the absence of enforceable veterinary oversight are just three factors contributing to an imbalanced system in racing. Fraud, corruption and greed abound within this industry whose for-profit business model allows fraudsters to ignore horses whose welfare may be at stake due to broken systems.
Breeding 1,000-pound thoroughbreds with massive torsos and spindly legs can lead to devastating consequences, while forcing them into intensive training as early as 2 — roughly equivalent to first grade — is surefire way to cause major failures. And when injuries or breakdowns do happen, few racehorses are ever retired into pastures – instead they may be sold off to new owners who don’t want them or sent directly into auction where many end up heading toward slaughter pipeline. Only independent nonprofit rescue groups and individuals working tirelessly to give these horses a future beyond racing can save them. Without them, horses like Eight Belles, Medina Spirit, Keepthename, and Creative Plan would have faced an excruciating death, like thousands of former racehorses slaughtered for glue production or dog food in Canada and Mexico slaughterhouses.