Last weekend was the Kentucky Derby, a nearly 150-year-old horse race, attended by spectators with elaborate hats sipping mint-julep cocktails. This year, while the fancy crowd dressed up and relaxed, the horses who actually ran the race were dying – literally – to entertain them.
Seven horses died this year in the lead-up to the race in Kentucky. Other races were similarly tragic. At Laurel Park, a track in Maryland, eight horses died in October and November of last year, and a recent report cited 13 deaths so far this year! According to horsedeathwatch.com, founded in 2007 to monitor racehorse deaths, 2,609 horses have been killed in the last 16 years. That’s nearly one horse death every other day! A quick look at the causes of injury and death highlights the barbarism of this so-called sport: “collided with horse jumping fence – broke hind leg – destroyed”; “collapsed and died after race”; “pulled up – shattered knee – destroyed”; “fell – broke neck – dead”; “broke down – destroyed”; “fell – broke neck and broke foreleg – destroyed.”
A broken foreleg means that a horse shatters a front leg, so that the horse’s lower leg dangles freely while the horse stumbles to stay upright while the other horses run past. Horses with a broken foreleg are put down a few minutes later after experiencing excruciating pain and terror. At this year’s Kentucky Derby the first horse died by flipping over and breaking its neck. Four were injured in training and euthanized, and two more died under “mysterious circumstances.”
Even if racing weren’t so dangerous, the training horses undergo beforehand is exceptionally brutal. They are driven to extremes of physical exertion, and they are pumped full of performance enhancing steroids. This is all so that the audiences can see “the most exciting two minutes in sports,” as the race is happily known. Ultimately the horses are put through this torture so that the horses’ owners, the racehorse industry and the gambling industry can make profits.
These horses, much like millions of humans who are injured on the job every year, are victims of a system of profit that simply does not care about them. As long as a few of them can give audiences a few short minutes of entertainment, the horse owners, racetrack owners and gambling company owners will exploit their bodies and lives for profit. They are expendable, only useful as long as they produce a commodity that profits their CEO and Board of Directors.
The torturous deaths of these unfortunate animals is yet another symptom of the sickness and inhumanity of a system that puts profits above all else.