Monday 21 April 2014

You're Wrong, Ruby

Horses are not replaceable, and neither are other animals - dogs, cats, or even hamsters. Just because they’re not human doesn’t mean that their lives are any less worthwhile than mine or yours. Animals are sentient beings with the ability to think and feel just like humans. This only goes to show that their lives are just as valuable as anyone else’s.

After all, you merely have to talk to someone who has lost a beloved pet and they’ll undoubtedly tell you that animals are definitely not replaceable. Because they’re not – it’s as simple as that.

This follows jockey Ruby Walsh’s recent comments at the Cheltenham Festival, where he said that horses are replaceable and people are not. Despite receiving a massive backlash Ruby has continued to stick by his controversial comments, angering animal rights activists, anti-racing campaigners, and members of the public alike.

It’s not entirely surprising that Ruby has received so much criticism over his comments, given that the UK is widely known as a nation full of animal lovers. Instead, it just goes to show how little he cares about animals, and therefore how out of step he is with the rest of us.

These remarks show an obvious lack of concern for animal welfare from Ruby. Surely being a jockey means he would have formed a bond with the horses he rides? I would have thought that all the hours of training and race preparations he undergoes would have helped him to do that. But apparently, this is not the case. Certainly, if I were a jockey I would want to get to know the horses so I could learn to recognise each horse’s distinct personality.

Ruby’s comments clearly illustrate that he has little respect for the horses that have helped to bring him success over his 20-year career. It is disrespectful, not least because it shows that he thinks horses are nothing more than a means to an end – a way for him to make money and be successful. He should not disregard the lives of horses just because they aren’t humans. Horses are not machines, so they don’t deserve to be treated like them.

This just demonstrates Ruby’s complete lack of empathy for the many horses that have died during races. It’s estimated that around 400 horses die every year during or as a result of horseracing. To put that into perspective, 11 horses died at the 2006 Cheltenham Festival and there hasn’t been a Festival without a fatality since.

It’s sad to think that equine tragedies are still so commonplace today - even with all the new safety measures that have been brought in. These supposedly safer racing measures have included the introduction of new starting methods, smaller jumps, and stricter monitoring of the horses’ health.
There is also debate over whether the new measures are actually working. Evidence suggests that in an attempt to make the sport safer, it’s actually becoming more dangerous. For example, fewer and smaller jumps mean the horses can run faster for longer. This wears them out more quickly and puts an increased strain on their bodies.

Despite all of this, the statistics don’t lie: the death toll isn’t changing.

Maybe this is because of the people involved in the racing industry. If Ruby is anything to go by they aren’t taking animal welfare seriously at all, which renders the whole concept of improved safety methods pointless. It’s the attitudes that need to be adjusted, not the rules. If the jockeys aren’t cooperating, nothing will change and horses will continue to die needlessly.

But this isn’t the first time Ruby has caused controversy. Back in 2011, he earned a 5-day suspension for overusing his whip on a horse. He then proceeded to spearhead a call for strike action and tried to overturn a change in the law regarding whip usage by threatening to stop competing in Britain altogether.
Ruby needs to realise that claims like these are only going to make him more unpopular. His high opinion of himself will simply make the inevitable fall in popularity harder to bear.

In an ironic turn of events, Ruby fell from his horse during a race a few days after making his comments.  As a result of the fall, he sustained injuries including a broken arm and fractured shoulder, which prohibited him from racing for 2 months.

I wouldn’t be surprised to find horses across the country snickering in their stables tonight. Poetic justice? I think so.

Are you a horse-racing fan? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

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