“They treat them (racehorses) like disposable objects and take no responsibility for them once they stop making money”, says Kristin Leigh from the Coalition for the Protection of Racehorses (CPR) about the majority of the people behind horse racing.
Humans have had a long culture of racing horses as a sport, from the chariot races of the Olympic Games in Ancient Greece to the prestigious Epsom Derby – Britain’s richest horse race. According to Leigh, horse racing has been around for about 200 years in Australia and New Zealand and has played a significant part in their culture.
The Spring Racing Carnival in Australia, for instance, is an Australian Thoroughbred horse racing series wrapped in the glam of a hugely popular social event. The fashion side of this carnival has featured some big names like Paris Hilton and Eva Longoria over the years, turning the Spring Racing Carnival into much more than a mere sporting event.
Behind this youthful energy and fun vibe at horse racing events, lies a world of animal cruelty that often goes unacknowledged. From the very beginning, horses bred for racing are subject to harsh conditions.
Racehorses are trained while still young and their lives are isolated with diets of high concentrated protein instead of grazing, Leigh says. They’re also given very little time out on the field, which is an unnatural way for them to live. They spend most of their time in stables.
Racehorses are put out on the track when they are as young as two years old. At this age, their muscles have not fully developed. It translates to a lot of injuries on the track.
Pulmonary hemorrhage makes horses bleed from their noses
Leigh talks about an exercise injury known as the pulmonary hemorrhage. It occurs when horses are pushed to run so hard to get to the finishing line first, that they burst their lungs’ capillaries, making the horse bleed from its nostrils.
Statistics suggest that ninety percent of racehorses suffer from the condition, but it’s usually difficult to detect as the horses experience the bleeding deep in their lungs, according to Leigh. In a recent event, she says, four horses suffered the condition when on the track and two died.
The average ‘career’ of a racehorse is three to five years and the question is where they go for the rest of their 25-years life span. Leigh shares that not many will end up being competitive past eight years and they’re usually sent to slaughterhouses for consumption or pet food. The meat is then exported to Europe and Asia, where there is a market for horse meat.
By visiting these events, we keep the inhuman culture of horse racing alive, Leigh says. The culture encourages the cruel means of torture used to train these animals, their deaths on the tracks, along with the fact that they are only kept alive so long as owners can make money off of them.
Last year, an investigation ‘The Final Race‘ into the horse racing industry revealed the horrors these animals go through. A huge public outcry followed because people had no idea how bad the industry was.
The awareness about the effects of this glamorous event on horses has seen numbers drop significantly in terms of attendance. However, according to Leigh, the gambling world in horse racing has grown, especially among the younger generation.
Nup the Cup!
Leigh ends on a hopeful note stating that media has been increasingly reporting incidents of cruelty and there is hope that younger generations will refuse to be complicit in the culture of horse racing, resulting in the eventual collapse of the industry.
She also talks about the anti-Melbourne Cup Party, called Nup to the Cup! that takes place across the road from the racecourses. What started as a small gathering of about 40 people has today grown into a much larger event that anybody can host to raise funds for sanctuaries or simply to take a stand against the races.
Complete with a vegan barbecue and human races, Nup to the Cup is a testament to the fact that you can keep the spirit of the event alive without engaging in animal abuse.
Watch the full interview with Kristin Leigh from the Coalition for the Protection of Racehorses here.