The 2013 jumps-racing death toll for New Zealand horses currently stands at three. It’s a toll that can be expected to rise as the season continues. Last year, six horses were killed during the jumps racing season – an average of one a month. The year before, the season finished with a death toll of 10.
Jumps racing is a cruel and callous “sport” with a high mortality rate for the horses who are forced to compete. Whipped into jumping at alarming speeds, with their injuries often ignored, horses die each season – something the industry readily accepts. In fact, the New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing association told The New Zealand Herald that “[i]t must be accepted that in some sports sometimes lives will be lost. It is inevitable when dealing with livestock”.
When Little Josh was euthanised following a broken shoulder at the Grand National build-up – the second horse to perish at the event – his trainer, Nigel Twiston-Davies, told Stuff.co.nz that the horse had “gone out doing what he loved most”. The fact is that the only reason that these animals jump is because they have been trained to.
Scientists have confirmed that horses did not evolve to become jumping animals. According to the authors of Horse Structure and Movement, “There is a common misconception that the horse is a natural jumper, possessed of a flexible and supple body capable of maintaining balance at all gaits and speeds. The reality is very different. In fact, of all athletic animals, the horse has been provided with a very inflexible carcass of great bulk and weight … apart from the trunk providing anchorage for muscles responsible for limb movement, its weight is a serious handicap to rapid and flexible progression, like a motor car with a very heavy chassis”.
Horses also have poor forward vision, and some individuals can have a blind zone of up to 2 metres directly in front of them. Because of the speeds that they are made to travel at, they also don’t have the opportunity to refuse a jump if their approach is incorrect. Their bodies are not adapted for this purpose, and it’s no wonder that the casualty list grows longer each season.
High-risk, money-driven and cruelty-ridden, jumps racing should be banned. Please write to Racing Minister Nathan Guy and politely tell him what you think of horses dying for “sport”: [email protected].
Guest post by PETA Asia intern Liselle Finlay