Tuesday, May 23, 2006
There has been an overwhelming outpouring of concern for Barbaro, the horse who broke his leg at the running of the Preakness. News organizations are following his story intently, providing minute-by-minute accounts of the attempt by vets to save the animal, and people are sending cards and gifts to his stable to...well, I'm not sure what that's supposed to do.
The chances of his recovering and not having to be killed, while better than that facing injured horses in times past, are still iffy. The Times says: His odds of survival, put at 50-50 by the veterinarian who operated on him, are far better than those of horses with similar injuries in decades past. In 1975, the unbeaten filly Ruffian was euthanized after being injured at Belmont Park in a match race against Foolish Pleasure.
Anyway, I guess I'm glad there is such an outpouring of concern from the public, but I have to say, it's a very selective concern. There are animals in dire straits every day, including plenty of horses. I'm on the Humane Society mailing list, and every week or so I get an email from them urging action to help save wild horses in the West who are being rounded up and slaughtered by the government or by ranchers. And, of course, every day in this country, thousands upon thousands of dogs and cats are put to death, unwanted and unloved, abandoned by owners.
Why does an animal have to be “famous” to get such interest as Barbaro is getting?
Well, at least there is concern, and, at least as a society, we have somewhat progressed to the point where there are laws against animal cruelty. And even though it still happens in secret, at least we and the civilized world have officially banned such inhumane games as dog fighting and cock fighting and the like. Hell, they used to do bear baiting and “games" involving animals that can't even be described they were so cruel.
But, every day, to amuse man, or make him money, Barbaro, and other horses, are put at risk for the “sport” of racing. We only hear about the famous races, the Preakness, the Derby, and the like, but horse racing goes on every single day. And we have to ask what are we doing to these creatures?
When a race car driver gets behind the wheel on a track, he puts his life at risk - but he has a choice in the matter. He knows what the risks are, and he choses to do it. No one is forcing him. Race horses don't have that luxury.
I know we've had the so-called sport of kings with us for centuries, and there likely always will be horse racing, it's not getting banned any time soon. And, sure, the horses seem relatively well treated and healthy, and they no doubt have better lives than those poor horses I see attached to a carriage and pulling some fat goober from Iowa around Central Park in the middle of a sweltering Manhattan summer day. But we should still ask how much is it worth putting these race horses' lives at risk to give us pleasure?
Posted by J at 11:35 AM
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