Whips aren’t in the race when it comes to hurting horses (AU)

Padded Race Whips
The Australian Racing Board ruled to make the use of padded whips in horse racing mandatory from August 1st this year.

This is a good article, summed up very neatly by the headline.

They are, as Andrew Rule says, writing for the National Times, what the public sees. Rule points out that it is speed and hard tracks that injure and kill. Both are valid issues, critical to racing safety.

We could spend a lot of time and money lobbying for whip changes, whip banning and the like. We do not, for this very reason. Whips aren’t in the race when it comes to hurting horses.

For our purposes, here is the gist of the article:

The main case against whips – and valid, from a PR viewpoint – is that vigorous use at the finish looks bad to an audience whose idea of animal welfare is feeding their cat enough tinned fish to supply an African village.

For a growing number of watchers – and not only hysterical animal rights campaigners – the perception of cruelty might obscure the reality.

The reality is this: of all the things that hurt racehorses, whips aren’t in the race. Racehorses, expertly inbred for fast-twitch muscles, brave hearts and big lungs, are only ever a step from breaking down. Even those not raced as two-year-olds, when young bones are most vulnerable, are notoriously liable to ”go wrong”. Speed and hard tracks hurt horses, not whips.

Injury, of course, happens to all athletes: every season, footballers are hurt by an ever-faster game. Such injuries are painful, and can end careers. The difference is that broken-down horses mostly have dimmer futures than ex-footballers. Ironically, ex-racehorses can end up inside the pets of the animal-loving public – an entirely rational fate, if a sad one.

Naturally, we depart with Mr. Rule on the last sentence. Not to mention, the hysterical tag on animal rights campaigners. Oh, well.

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Leading sports journalist Patrick Smith from The Australian takes a somewhat differing view, calling for the whip to be banned altogether from horse racing.

Watching jockeys hit horses up to 40 times in the straight appeals only to sadists and can hardly be a marketer’s best idea, but it is not the driving reason to stop whipping. Whipping is cruel. It is, by any definition, barbaric.”

The question is, is this really a start to improving the lives of racehorses, or just a concession to distract racegoers and horse lovers from the really troubling cruelties that go on behind the scenes, and at the end of a racehorse’s career?

— See Animals Australia.

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