Friday, March 30, 2012

"Luck", Horse racing, and the Inescapable Issue of Safety

This blog has not covered horse racing at all, and despite my father's constant letters, that pace is unlikely to significantly increase anytime soon. Still, I can't help but be fascinated by the sad end to the HBO series "Luck", a dramatic portrayal of horse racing culture.

For those of you who haven't heard- and judging by the show's ratings, that's most of you- the producers have decided to permanently halt production on the show after three horses died during filming. The word is, the show runners were real horse lovers, so this isn't just generalized liberal guilt; they really feel like they're killing pets.

In general, I don't have much to say about animal rights. I'm certainly opposed to cruelty- like the producers, I suppose, I can't help but personalize some animals as my own pets, and I don't want anyone to hurt my sweet baby-kins- but I accept that humans are at the top of the food chain. So I have one of those mushball middle opinions that make for boring blog posts.

But again...cruelty. I accept that animals are going to get hurt and die based on what we do, but I'd prefer it if it was for a bit of a higher purpose such as feeding people. I'm a bit more uncomfortable when they die just for sport, and doubly so when they die for a fictional TV show about the sport. So, I think the "Luck" producers made the right call.

My question, then, becomes if "Luck" is particularly more dangerous to horses than horse racing itself. If so, then okay, it's over and we can move on. If not, though, then I don't know how comfortable I can be with the sport as a whole.

This New York Times story certainly doesn't fill me with confidence. But as you can see, here it goes beyond endangering the animal: now, the jockeys themselves are getting maimed. Unfortunately, I don't know enough about the sport to tell if the danger is inextricable; this article makes a good argument that it isn't, that a cocktail of performance enhancing drugs (funny how often we come back to those) are spiking the level of risk for horse and jockey alike, but I don't know how true that is.

I suppose I hope it is true, and that I'd push for tighter regulations on doping. Because I really don't want to take anyone's sport away from them, or look down on anyone for liking one sport or another (besides Ultimate Tazer Ball, of course). So, I hope we can make a form of horse racing that doesn't needlessly sacrifice the horses and the jockeys. But if we can't, well, I can't really watch that kind of cruelty, to animals or anyone.

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