It’s time to do something about horse racing

Abigail McArthur-Self, Editor-in-Chief

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Horse racing is an American — and perhaps more than that a Midwestern — sport. The Kentucky Derby, one of the most famous horse races in the world, takes place just a few states away. 

Racing has been under fire for questionable ethics for years, and with good reason. Horse racing is incredibly dangerous for the animals it features. According to the North American Equine Injury Database, an average of two racehorses die every day.  In many races, jockeys visibly whip horses — a form of physical abuse that is blatant but often accepted. Although whipping is not usually a deadly issue, it is both unnecessary and cruel. Some in charge of races do take steps to ensure that the course itself doesn’t provide extra danger, but others capitalize on it to up the stakes and draw in crowds. However, the issues with horse racing go far beyond the in-race dangers.Various individuals in the racing industry have repeatedly been investigated for issues with drug abuse — accused of using unhealthy steroids to allow their horses to run faster. As the Horse Fund details, horses are also started too young. A foal shouldn’t be trained to carry a rider until they’re about four years old, for both  physical and mental reasons. Racehorses, however, are started around two years old to capitalise on their faster years longer. This means their skeletal system is not fully developed and not prepared to carry a rider This decision is made solely in the interests of the trainers who stand to profit and not the care of the horses. 

For the same reason (profit), horses who have finished their careers or don’t do well are often slaughtered. Some breeders intentionally over breed and send horses that don’t end up performing to slaughter. Although it’s not necessarily something endemic to the racing industry, the industry is notorious for accepting these casualties as an unavoidable part of working with horses. 

Many who support the industry have attempted to chalk these issues up to reckless or cruel individuals, and perhaps they are the root of some of the problems. But too many of these issues are common — they’re accepted because horse racing perpetuates a culture that tolerates a whole range of animal abuse. People have been calling for stricter regulations on the racing industry for years. Horse racing kills more horses than any other horse sport or activity. Something is wrong. 

Horse racing needs better regulations for the safety of the horses if the sport is going to continue to be a part of American culture. Horses, like all other domestic animals, like dogs and cats and all other pets, deserve a reasonable expectation of safety. We should not intentionally be putting animals in unnecessary, life-threatening danger for the sake of a gambling-based sports industry. Racing doesn’t have to look like this. States like California have started taking steps to protect the animals whose backs the industry literally rests on. Now, as Arlington Park, a racetrack in Arlington Heights, has secured another year of racing dates, we too should consider how we should be approaching racing in our own area.