” Breeders have put much less of an emphasis on durability and soundness as they used to. And they’re putting just a preponderant emphasis on speed. “
“… yet you keep putting them under this type of stress … we have to change the way we look at this industry, and we do have to put it under the realm of cruelty to animals.”
” United States has been the one major racing jurisdiction in the world that has allowed freewheeling use of painkillers and other medications … horses go on to the track without feeling pain. And they are more susceptible to breakdown …. horses win races with the aid of medication, go to stud, and then they propagate descendants who carry on the same infirmities and then worse. “
Eight Belles raced past 18 horses to finish second in last Saturday’s Kentucky Derby, nearly becoming the 4th filly to win this historic race. Seconds later she dramatically collapsed on the track with both front ankles shattered, and soon was humanely euthanized. Her disturbing death is part of a small but growing trend of fatal injuries that is raising questions about the horse racing industry. In this video report, two seasoned race-track commentators discuss and debate the issues of animal cruelty, excessive pain medication, breeding for speed while sacrificing durability, and the entrenched culture of horse racing. All twenty Derby horses, like 75% of all U.S. thoroughbresds, could trace their pedigree back to Native Dancer, a famously fast but fragile 1953 Horse of the Year whose career was cut short by a leg injury. Eight Belles was more closely related genetically to Native Dancer than nearly all of her competitors.
This racing tragedy opens opportunities for meaningful conversation or research projects. What is “selective breeding”? Why would breeding for speed lead to a greater risk of injury? What explains the U.S. horse trainers using more medication than their European or Asian counterparts? Do you think horse racing represents cruelty to animals? What could be done to reduce injuries? Are there differences between fillies and colts in injury rates or other variables?
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