4 reasons horse racing would be better without horses

Fine clothes and bubbly may have their appeal, but for the horses there's a side to racing that is far from glamorous.

LAST UPDATED: 1 November 2019

It's race day. The lawn is freshly mown, and the scent of money is in the air. Young beautiful horses are paraded about. Crowds are dressed up like minor royalty, the champagne is flowing. It's a day of eveningwear in the morning and drinks before noon, high bets and high spirits.

They say that fortunes can be won and lost on days like this. But so can lives.

Have you ever considered what's really being wagered at the races? Here are four things you can make a sure bet on...

Thousands of horses bred for racing will never make it to the racetrack.

Thousands of horses are bred in Australia every year in the relentless search for 'winners' — up to half of these young horses will never see the track, and of those who do not every one can be a place-getter and achieve 'success' for their owner. 'Wastage' is the term used by the industry to describe these horses who aren't 'up to scratch' — and their fate is grim.

Every year thousands of thoroughbreds are sold at auctions for a few hundred dollars apiece, only to be ferried away and 'processed' into pet meat. Horses like Nature's Child who was still listed on the website of Racing Victoria as 'spelling' (ie. resting) when she was brutally killed at a Victorian knackery.

Horses will fall and die in jumps races.

Horses not fast enough for elite level racing are sometimes 'retired' to jumps racing. Jumps racing is 10 - 20 times more dangerous than flat racing, and the injuries sustained can be horrific -- with horses suffering broken legs, backs and necks.

Whips hurt.

They may try to flee from danger, but horses can't escape the tormenter saddled to their back — which makes whipping tired and defenseless animals all the more unconscionable. Whips hurt. There are no two ways about it.

An RSPCA-commissioned review by the University of Sydney found that whipping horses does not make them run faster. The study found that how a horse runs in the first part of the race — when they aren’t being whipped — is the most critical factor in determining racing success. So horses are flogged near the finish line, when they are at their most exhausted, for no ‘benefit’ whatsoever. One veterinarian and horse behaviourist has described whipping as "the most public form of violence to animals in Australia today".

Horses for [main] courses.

While it has traditionally been taboo to consume horse meat in Australia, records reveal that at least 700 horses every month are slaughtered here for the export market. Many of these horses are young and healthy thoroughbreds who simply didn't make it on the race track. 

There are lots of things that may appeal about the culture of racing: the chance to dress up, have fun with friends, and open the bubbly at midday — but it's time to leave the horses out of it.

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