...my treasures do not sparkle they clink,
they shine in the sun and neigh in the night...



The racing industry crisis, the closure of racetracks, and the failure of one system of exploiting horses

  • Horse racing

(28 February 2013)

The numerous appeals circulating the web, and the many emails IHP receives about the racing industry, prompt us to publish this statement regarding our position both on horse racing in general, and on the consequences of the financial crisis which have been eating away at this sector for some years.

The official position of the Italian Horse Protection Association association is well known. It is based on an informed understanding of the natural behaviour of equines, and is therefore against any use of equines for sport or commercial purposes.

In horse-racing commercial interests are paramount – this is clearly illustrated by the fact that horses are trained up to start racing by 2 years of age, they compete for between 3 and 8 more years and are then ‘retired’ and replaced by other horses, again bred for this specific purpose.

We ask: where do all those ‘retired’ racehorses go, given that we do not find, in the properties of the racing industry, the sheer number of older horses the figures would suggest?
One possible answer to this question can be found in a paper (*) published by the FNOVI (Italian Veterinary Federation) discussing an anomaly in the 2009 calculations (but still relevant today, witness the recent horsemeat scandal): in 2009, 82,331 horses were slaughtered, of which 45,757 were imported. A study carried out by Prof. E Duranti, and presented on 17 January 2008, reveals that in 2006 there were 5,906 horses raised for meat (brood mares included).
Now presuming that these figures did not change significantly in 2009, we have over 30,000 horses coming from the racetracks slaughtered for a variety of reasons but nonetheless not produced specifically for the meat industry. Therefore these were horses who had reached the end of their racing career, horses who no longer performed well...

This line of reasoning somewhat displaces the emotional lever used by the racing industry, which argues that if the racetracks close, the horses will have to be slaughtered: the horses end up in the abattoirs anyway, since it is an obvious way of disposing of surplus animals in a world where results are what counts and where the ‘not-so-good’ cost too much to keep.

If the racetracks were forced to close, and if the racing industry has to end, as we hope it will, this chain of events will be disrupted. We would be faced in the first instance by the emergency situation of needing to home horses not raised specifically for meat, a task we believe should be undertaken exceptionally by the Government. In the medium term the situation would be compensated by the fact that no more horses would be bred and trained specifically for a racing industry and therefore would not pose the problem of disposal once they were no longer able to perform well.

Above all, there is the point of view of the horse, who has no concept of competition, a typically human attitude which some presume to attribute also to animals, forcing them to act and perform in ways which are contrary to their very nature, all for human gratification and profit.

In horse behaviour terms, there is no such thing as a winner of a race, a winner who jumps higher or jumps more obstacles, or who completes a long-distance race in a pre-specified time, plays gymkhana games, races round bending poles or barrels, herds other animals, performs repetitive movements obsessively around an arena, endures exhausting training schedules, willingly enters enclosed spaces, lives in isolation, eats food rations at fixed times of the day: these things must be admitted honestly, before one can even start talking about horse welfare.

* FNOVI (italian Veterinary Federation) “Eutanasia e professione veterinaria tra incremento della popolazione equina, legalità e codice deontologico” (PAG 16) Euthanasia and the veterinary profession, increase in the equine population, legality and the deontological code