May 5, 2008

You know, I always wondered what PETA thought about events like the Kentucky Derby. I mean, you aren’t killing animals and using them for fur, but jockeys do whip the horse to make it go faster for a majority of the race. And how did they feel about Eight Belles, the horse who was euthanized on the track after finishing second in the Kentucky Derby on Saturday? Well, lets just say they weren’t too pleased…From Sports Illustrated,

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals is seeking the suspension of Eight Belles’ jockey after the filly had to be euthanized following her second-place finish in the Kentucky Derby on Saturday.

Gabriel Saez was riding Eight Belles when she broke both front ankles while galloping out a quarter of a mile past the wire. She was euthanized on the track.

PETA faxed a letter Sunday to Kentucky’s racing authority claiming the filly was “doubtlessly injured before the finish” and asked that Saez be suspended while Eight Belles’ death is investigated.

PETA also asked that Saez’s purse of $400,000 be revoked if Saez is found to have somehow been the cause of the horse’s death, a ban on whipping, limits on races and the age of racehorses, and a move to softer, artificial surfaces for all courses. It seems as though a compromise needs to be in order; horseracing needs to make some changes with serious injuries to Barbaro last year and Eight Belles this year, but that safety will be weighed against cost, and some of the hard line rules PETA is requesting probably aren’t fair to implement across the board (horses aren’t created equal, so how can you make them stop racing at the same time when one is clearly still able to race and is still profitable?). Furthermore, you also have to deal with the fact that ‘risk’ is something that is inherent within the sport. Kentucky Derby winner Big Brown’s trainer, Rick Dutrow Jr. was quoted as saying,

“To make it safer, don’t race the horses, don’t train them, then they’ll live good lives out on the farm,” Big Brown trainer Rick Dutrow Jr. said.

“But you have to train them for races, you have to run them and that’s where the problems start to set in. They have to be asked to run and sometimes in a particular minute, they’re asked to run when they’re not ready to give it and then it hurts.”

So, how do you make a sport that is inherently dangerous, waning in popularity, and in need of added excitement, safer for the participants? Apparently, that’s the $400,000 question.

Sports Illustrated: PETA wants Eight Belles jockey suspended

Yahoo! Sports: Tragedy overshadows unbeaten Big Brown’s Kentucky Derby win

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