Horse racing is one of the world’s oldest sports. It has been practiced by civilizations across the globe since ancient times, and it remains an integral part of our culture, appearing in art, legend and myth. It has also been a major source of entertainment, with millions of people attending races around the world each year. While many people enjoy the spectacle of a horse race, others are concerned about the welfare of the animals involved. This article examines some of the issues that surround the sport and offers suggestions for improvement.
Despite their diminutive size, racehorses endure incredible physical pain and often die under horrific conditions. They are bred and raced at an age when their skeletal systems are still developing, making them unprepared for the stress of running on a hard track at high speeds. Injuries are common, with horses dying of heart failure, pulmonary hemorrhage, broken bones, severed spines and ruptured ligaments.
To protect the health of the animals, the racing industry imposes strict standards for the breeding of racehorses. The number of foals born is limited, and the most promising ones are chosen to be trained for top races such as the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe in France, the Belmont Stakes in the United States, and the Preakness Stakes in Maryland. To increase profits, the industry has raised the maximum age of a racehorse to five and increased the size of prize money for these events.
Horses that don’t win top races are sold for slaughter. The meat of some animals is consumed in the United States, and some is exported to other countries. A growing number of people are also concerned about the meat industry’s effect on human health and the environment.
The exploitation of racehorses has been criticized for its cruelty, and it is illegal in most places. The animals suffer from neglect and starvation, are frequently drugged, and are subjected to extreme temperatures and other environmental factors that can cause injuries and death. The industry is regulated by several government agencies, including the USDA and the Food and Drug Administration.
In the United States, horse race coverage is dominant in presidential campaigns, with more time and space devoted to it than to other topics of substance. Critics claim that the approach trivializes politics by reducing it to a sport with gladiators and spectators, and it skews polling results in favor of front-runners. Media scholars have studied this phenomenon for decades, and a body of research shows that voters, candidates and the news industry itself are hurt by it. These studies suggest that a different strategy is needed.