An update on a previous post:

Horseracing-as-sport is an obscenity of the highest order. There are, of course, many reasons why, but perhaps the three most obvious are these: First, the athletes in question are utterly unaware of their status as such – worse, they are in fact pieces of chattel, animal slaves. Second, participation in said sport is compelled by whip-wielding humans. Third, and most telling of all, death on the field of play.

That horseracing kills horses is settled fact. But what most of the public doesn’t know is the magnitude of that killing, nor in how it relates to other accepted sports. Each year, hundreds of American racehorses die on “game day” (just racing, not including training). Hundreds. In comparison, here are the game-related death totals for the four major U.S. professional sports leagues over their entire histories:

Major League Baseball, founded 1903, 120 seasons – one death (Ray Chapman)
National Hockey League, founded 1917-18, 105 seasons – one death (Bill Masterton)
National Football League, founded 1920, 102 seasons – one death (Chuck Hughes)
National Basketball Association, founded 1946-47, 76 seasons – zero deaths

In other words, horseracing kills about as many in one day as the other four have in their collective 403 years. A sport? America, you’ve been hoodwinked.

When I was writing the animal-rights blog for the Albany Times Union several years back, I often focused on animal cognition and ethology. My goal was simple: By illustrating the depth of their intelligence and the richness of their social/emotional lives, I hoped to remove any doubt about our connection – our bond – to many nonhuman animals, especially other mammals. The relevant word was/is sentience – the ability to feel; the capacity for pleasure and, of course, its counterpart, pain.

In regard to the above, a primary influence for me was Dr. Marc Bekoff, renowned biologist, ethologist, and writer. Dr. Bekoff is a regular contributor to Psychology Today; he recently penned an article entitled: “It’s Time To Stop Wondering if Animals Are Sentient – They Are.” Needless to say, everything he writes fully applies to the horses we represent. Here is the full piece – and my highlights:

“It’s clear we know that numerous animals other than ourselves are sentient beings, and a shift in attitudes is in progress. Given what we know about animal sentience, it’s time for more action – to use what we know on behalf of other animals.

“We know they get bored, suffer immeasurably when their bodies are mutilated and their lives compromised by being forced to live in horrific conditions of captivity ‘in the name of humans,’ when their children are ripped away from them to make more meat or milk or cheese, or when they’re severely abused to entertain us. … We also know that animals feel pleasure and like to experience certain activities such as being free to move about and interact with friends and other animals, play, and feel safe.

“I know some people will respond with something like, ‘We really don’t know whether pigs don’t like their tails being cut off or being castrated,’ or ‘We need more data to know that animals get really bored or enjoy play.’ However, we know it, and it’s high time to recognize that this sort of skepticism is…responsible for widespread and continued abuse….

“The abundant scientific database that already exists…supports the fact that there exist many species of nonhuman organisms on our planet who are undeniably sentient; deeply feeling, emotional beings who care about what happens to themselves and others. The fact of sentience needs to be put to use and into practice to protect and respect the lives of the other animals our species interact with in so many ways. … While we persist in pondering the obvious, ignoring what we already know and have long known, countless nonhuman victims continue to be abused by humankind, every minute of every day, planet-wide.

“Future human generations will surely look back and wonder how we could have kept shamefully failing to…protect sentient non-humankind from ourselves. … We can, and we must do better. Solid science, evolutionary biology, comparative psychology, and a dose of common sense can lead the way. Surely, it’s time to stop wondering if other animals are sentient – they clearly are.”