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On the Wrong Track

Observations from the Edge
Robert T. Nanninga
North County Times
August 2, 1999


When I returned from vacation, waiting for me was a flyer from People For The Ethical Treatment of Animals, regarding animals in entertainment, and the announcement for a protest that happened while I was away. The fact sheet on horse racing was a bit misstated, considering that horse racing is actually an example of animals as entertainment, because to be in entertainment requires some degree of choice.

The protest took place on opening day for the Del Mar Race Track, and was aimed at drawing attention to the fact that sixteen horses died last year during it's racing season. Where racing may not be the cruelest of sports, that's reserved for trophy hunting, it is by far the most indefensible. Horse racing is slavery, plain and simple.

Proponents of racing will say that race horses live a very pampered life, but a gilded cage is still a cage. I would also suggest that those who see thoroughbreds as beautiful athletes are blinded by arrogance or denial, and more than likely both. Then there are the folks who could care less if an animal is suffering, and suffer the animal living only as long as it is profitable.

Horse racing is serious business, it's an industry that supports many people. Encompassing all socioeconomic levels, racing is a billion dollar enterprise that survives off the existence of another species. In biological terms this could be considered parasitic. From the laborers shoveling stalls, to the owners who breed and sell animals as if they were baseball cards, exploited horses are the true breadwinners.

To understand how contrary racing is to the nature of horses, all one has to do is look to wild horses to see that running around in circles, at high speed, is not a natural behavior, nor is carrying small humans. Standing around in small enclosures is also a forced behavior. Horses are a migratory herd animals, comprising of family groups. To rob them of a social structure, and the freedom we enjoy, is cruel and unusual punishment.

Injury results from year round racing schedules and harder running surfaces. Racing horses younger than two years of age, before their skeletal structure is fully developed, lames more than 6O percent of all racehorses. Would we do this to our children?

In the racing world, Cruelty comes in many forms. Veterinarians and trainers turn horses in to drug addicts allowing them to run through the pain. Ironically, people who have a hissy fit about human athletes taking drugs, won't bat an eye lash to thoroughbreds being pumped full of sorts of chemicals. Phenylbutazone and furosemide, two commonly used drugs, relieve symptoms like pain and bleeding. Horses that fail to muster up, soon become pet food or glue.

I realize the City of Del Mar developed around the race track, and the history of the two are intricately entwined. But like the Makah hunting whales, racing in Del Mar should be relegated to the brutal past. Serving only as a reminded to a time when humans did not know better. Animal suffering as a form of entertainment, is far from humane.

As we all know, the Del Mar Fair grounds can be used in ways other than that of exploiting animals. I know for a fact that hardly a day goes by without a portion of the facilities being rented out for some other purpose. If racing is indeed needed, then I suggest that Del Mar redevelops the race grounds into an Olympic training center. This too would create jobs, and then we would know the athletes running are there by choice, and drug free.

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