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Cheltenham Festival – should it still happen in 2020?

The races is the biggest event of the sporting calendar in Cheltenham. The whole country seems to flock to the city for the week-long event every spring. It has become a huge social event, everyone brings out their suavest suit or their highest heels

However, there is more to the races than just splashing the cash and having a few drinks. How often do race goers spare a thought for the participants in their weeks entertainment? The debate has been going on for decades, is horse racing ethical?

Animal Aid is an organisation that’s main goal is the banning of the whip in sporting events and they are campaigning for a ‘new independent organisation with sole responsibility for race horse welfare’ and they have reported that thorough bred deaths are currently sitting at around 200 a year. This poses the question should we be enjoying a sport with such a high mortality rate when no other legal sport has one as high?

It’s not just the deaths in horse racing that is the issue but currently in 2020 horses are is still the only animal that is whipped for entertainment. The horses are forced to sprint by the use of whips or even on occasion electrical shocking devices. They are forced to sprint at speeds so high it very frequently leads to injuries.

In 2013, PETA wrote that top trainers and jockeys admitted to having used illegal electro-shock devices on horses. A while later, jockey Roman Chapa, who was previously suspended for using a nail on a horse, was charged with race fixing after using a shocking device on a horse.

It’s also become common that when horses are pushed to their limits and it looks like they can’t go any more that they are subjected to a mix of legal and illegal drugs that are intended to enhance performance. It is also quite common for horses to bleed from their lungs, a condition known as exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhage. In an attempt to decrease the bleeding, many horses are given a drug called Lasix or Salix, a diuretic with performance-enhancing qualities.

Peta have reported; “Not surprisingly, every week, an average of 24 horses experience fatal breakdowns at racetracks across the country, and this number doesn’t even take into account the horses who are discarded by the racing industry when they’re no longer considered profitable. In 2015, in New York alone, more than 250 Thoroughbreds endured injuries or fatal breakdowns during races.”

I think it’s only fair if we look at the positives that the Cheltenham festival brings too. The main positive is the money that is brought into the city, local hotels, bars, shops and restaurants will benefit massively from next weeks event.

Cheltenham train station will have an expected 110,000 visitors pass through its barriers over the course of the week and in 2016 over 260,000 people attended the festival over the course of the four days so it is clear to see how important the event is for the local economy.

I don’t know if I would go as far as to say that horse racing events should be canceled completely but I do think that we need stricter laws that have the horses well being in mind, our entertainment should not be put before the health of animals that have no say in whether they compete or not.

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