Monday, June 09, 2008

A Worthy Cause

I guess it’s obvious to anyone who’s spent time around here that I don’t think it’s inherently immoral to race horses. Of course, that doesn’t mean that the world of horse racing -- run, as it is, by humans -- is free of immorality. Not by a long shot.

For purposes of analogy, I don’t think it’s inherently wrong to eat meat. That said, I’m not proud that I’ve probably eaten plenty of meat from animals that were badly mistreated on their way to my plate. I don’t have much of an excuse for not paying better attention to such things, so I won’t try to conjure one.

And it’s not that I don’t get shaken up when a horse has to be put down, but that's often for reasons of injury that would make life unbearable (or impossible) for the horse. Compare that to the 5,000 dogs who are euthanized every day in this country (16 per second), mostly for reasons that have little or nothing to do with health. (You can find that statistic as well as a more heartwarming central story in this excellent piece by Charles Siebert.)

A recent story on HBO’s “Real Sports” -- a terrific show, if you can ignore host Bryant Gumbel, and his ridiculously posed writing of notes in the studio after each pre-taped segment ends -- brought home a truly disgusting side of the racing industry. In short, it involves horses who are no longer of value to an owner being cheaply sold in order to be killed for their meat. (Horses are a delicacy in parts of Europe and elsewhere around the world.) This would be bad enough, except that this process is illegal in the U.S., so the horses are shipped to Canada and Mexico, and their treatment there -- as captured by cameras in the piece -- is largely unregulated and truly horrific.

Conscientious people in the U.S. and elsewhere are investigating long-term ways to help with this problem. It makes sense that owners need to find a place for horses not up to racing, but surely there are better alternatives. But in the meantime, one scrappy group in the HBO feature caught my attention. It’s called Another Chance 4 Horses, a very small operation in eastern Pennsylvania that attends meat auctions in order to save horses from slaughter. They then care for the horses and try to adopt them out. It’s a group with modest resources facing down a large problem -- they can only outbid a handful of buyers at each auction, if that -- and I think it deserves your support. You can visit the official web site to donate.

(The “Real Sports” episode can be seen on HBO On Demand through tonight, and likely from time to time after that, but I only recommend it for the strong of stomach.)


Anonymous Manny Pelaez said...


5000+ dogs get the needle every year. Don't forget to add the number of dogs that are killed every year in the Iditarod Race, the training leading up to the race, and the other related races. The intense competition results in dogs being pushed beyond their endurance or capabilities and so far hundreds of dogs have died.

Some injuries and disorders that occur during the race include spinal injuries, bone fractures, sore and cut paws, ruptured tendon sheaths, torn muscles, sore joints, dehydration, stress and diarrhea. On average, 50% of the dogs who start the race CAN NOT MAKE IT ACROSS THE FINISH LINE.

Causes of death during the last ten years have included strangulation in towlines, internal hemorrhaging after being gouged by a sled, liver injury, heart failure, and pneumonia. "Sudden death" and "external myopathy," a condition in which a dog's muscles and organs deteriorate during extreme or prolonged exercise, have also been blamed.

This is the commentary that famous sportscaster, Jim Rome, made about the Iditarod -"The fact that you were able to outwhip, outbeat and outmutilate those other guys must make you proud, D. Actually, what I really was curious about, were the only stats that truly matter. Namely, how many dogs gave their life for this oh so important event? And, the final tally: 2 dead dogs and several others that bowed out due to injury. Including a group that was mangled by a snowmaking machine.

Great event, this I-killed-a-dog-sled race. What's better than watching dogs die and get mauled by a snow machine? And don't even bother with your, "You don't get it Rome," e-mails. You're right, I don't. and I don't want to either.

I hope I never get to place where beating dogs to death is good sport."

3:23 PM  
Anonymous jpw said...

So glad you linked to the Siebert piece.... it's worthy of attention. The stats on dogs that are euthanized yearly in this country are, indeed, pretty shocking. But their deaths are at least humane, unlike the deaths described in the above comment.

The Iditarod, bullfighting, dog fighting, cock fighting, and yes, horse-racing (though perhaps to a lesser extent): all examples of the human willingness (make that: desire) to inflict pain on innocent life for the sake of 'fun'. I've heard all kinds of justifications for these so-called 'sports', but, like Jim Rome, I ain't buying them. Beyond disheartening: these practices are disgusting.

And ASWOBA: I'd say that you have a moral obligation (we all do) to re-think your carnivorous eating habits: or at least to insist that the meat you eat was treated kindly while alive and was slaughtered humanely.... Watch a few movies about the chicken and beef industries and I guarantee you'll change your ways.

11:04 AM  
Blogger JMW said...

JPW, in my defense (as a horse racing fan, not a carnivore), bullfighting, dog fighting, cock fighting, and even The Iditarod, based on Manny's description, are intended to inflict pain on the animals.

I could never attend a dog fight or a cock fight without feeling total revulsion.

11:31 AM  
Anonymous Manny said...

"I could never attend a dog fight or a cock fight without feeling total revulsion."

My administrative assistant's husband won $5 million in the Texas lotto. (I'm dead serious) He blew it all in less than 3 years by gambling it away....ON COCK FIGHTING! (Still serious). To this day, he raises fighting roosters and ships them to MX and Louisiana, where it is less illegal to fight them.

I could never attend a cock fight with out wanting to hurl and karate chop everyone in attendance in about the head and neck area.

11:56 AM  
Anonymous PaddyDog said...

I'm not trying to zealously convert anyone, but in case a reader might be interested, provides a list of meat suppliers and shops where one can buy meat and dairy from producers whose practices have been inspected and certified for their humane treatment of the animals. yes, these products cost a little more, so eat meat three times a week instead of 7 and you'll eat with an easier conscience.

4:02 PM  

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