- The fallout from the death of Eight Belles continues, and this is obviously not good. Keeping horses safe from injury is obviously a major concern of those both inside and outside of the industry; and not one that the sport has ignored. People certainly have a right to speak out and, as reader Robin noted here, it's not necessarily a bad thing.
It raises issues and the complacent have to respond. We'd rather not, we'd rather handicap. But these are worthwhile arguments, if annoying when taken to the extreme.The problem is when those arguments are taken to the extreme at the expense of intelligent discussion that might actually spur constructive changes that I think we'd all like to see. So when I read useless blather like this (hat tip to Equidaily) or hear the kind of talk we're presently getting from PETA, it makes me wonder if the speakers are really trying to call attention to the problem, or to themselves.
In the case of PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals), I don't have any problem with their calling for artificial tracks, no whipping, or limits on at what ages horse can race. I don't necessarily agree that the industry should jump into any of those, and here's a wild guess - nobody at PETA has spent a single second reading and learning about the industry's experience with synthetics thus far. But these ideas are at least worthy of discussion; and in fact, highly visible and publicized breakdowns like this demand it.
However, their attack on jockey Gabriel Saez is completely uncalled for; their assertion that the filly was "doubtlessly injured before the finish" is unfounded and ignorant. Their characterization of his "mercilessly" whipping Eight Belles is just not borne out by watching the race. If I were the jockey, I'd be looking for a good libel attorney. Furthermore, the organization has called for the suspension of the trainer, and barring the owner from the track (a position on which Paul Moran would likely agree).
Even more absurdly, the organization released a letter it sent to Hillary Clinton which included this unfortunate news for the junior senator from New York:
I regret to say that your public support of horseracing — and specifically betting on Eight Belles—makes you culpable in her destruction.(Since I only bet her underneath on my exotics, does that mean I'm off the hook?)
A race track is not a place for a fun day out, and we are writing to Chelsea on that score. Attending the Derby is as despicable as attending a dogfight. For most—not a few—of the horses you see will not end up put out to pasture on a beautiful ranch but will be sent overseas to be slaughtered for someone's dinner plate. At some point, all horses stop winning.
Need I say more? I'm not going to waste my time or yours refuting the specific points here. But does PETA really expect to be taken seriously with stuff like this? The letter is signed by PETA president Ingrid E. Newkirk. Perhaps she's related to Alfred E. Neuman. This seems more appropriate for an issue of his magazine then a statement - and a very poorly written one, I might add - from the president of a supposedly important organization. Whereas PETA could be playing a constructive role, they instead demonstrate why nobody takes them seriously in the first place.