One of the most prestigious and long awaited events in Melbourne and in fact the whole of Australia is the Melbourne Cup. It’s a horse race.There are many races held during the Melbourne cup but during the final race, the entire country virtually comes to a stand still. And all glued to the television sets. Thousands put their money on their favourite horses. It’s a big thing. Horses are carefully selected, year round training conducted and millions spent to make the horse, the jockey, the trainer and the owner ready for such days. And we can’t forget the millions of dollars it generates for the city, the horse owners, fashion houses, television channels, radio stations, newspapers, internet sites etc.Around 397,000 people attended, 200 sponsors participated and 75,000 corporate guests entertained at the races this year. “A spectacular success”, the organizers cried out. The total prize money awarded in 2005 and 2006 was A$ 5 million, plus trophies valued at A$100,000. The race carries a A$500,000 bonus to the owner for any horse that can win the Irish St Leger (G1) and the Melbourne Cup in the one year. You can only imagine how important the horse is.
I am sure it has happened before but this year one of the horses fell during its run. The jockey was rushed to the hospital. And on the race track, they hid the horse with a screen and shot it. Put down – as they say.
The accident can be viewed at –
The news item on the incident concluded the story as follows: “The accident was a sad interruption to a day in which avid punters, greeted by perfect weather, splurged close to $20 million on the cup.”
Till that fall, the horse was a source of income. The moment it was injured, it had become a liability. It’s given happiness, money and even employment if you think about it. But now, its useless.
I had a heated argument with a friend on this topic. She said that if an animal is hurt and is likely to suffer for a long time, there is no cure and if it will eventually die because of the injury then it’s a noble thing to kill it. In nature, had it broken its ankle, it would eventually die because of pain and the inability to move around for food. And if you could talk to the horse, it would want to be killed as well rather than go through all these pain. She said that if humans were in a state of utter pain due to disease or some physical challenges, they should be made to stop suffering by taking their life away as well. All these are classified a s “acts of compassion”. What could I say? What did I say?
1. In a natural setting, a horse is not groomed, trained and made to run at such frightening speeds. It will run that fast only if it’s trying to run away from some immediate danger. 2. And even it did fall and injure itself; the fellow horses don’t pull a trigger at it. It will go through the pain; it will limp and will try its best to survive. That’s what animals are best doing. Their whole life purpose is to survive against all odds. We don’t go around jungles and landscapes checking out which animal needs to be put down because it’s injured. Rather we try and save it.
3. If you could talk to a horse, perhaps we should first ask if it wants to be involved in a race, run madly more than it wants to for a good part of the year and if it fell and got injured, then he would be shot. If the horse says, “Bring it on, Man”, then by all means go ahead. But did it? Can you? No. Because they can’t talk. So let’s go ahead and assume that the horse is ok with the idea and go about our business of exploiting it. Sometimes we assign human expressions to animals. For example, many people think its ok to have dolphins in a zoo swimming pool and have them jump through a ring over and over again. This is ok because the dolphins are always smiling. Similarly, it’s ok to race horses. There is no pain at all. Look at it. It looks so strong, well groomed and graceful. And running is its natural activity. It’s having a ball. If you ask a kid what the purpose of a horse is, he/she is likely to say – to race. We are terribly mistaken. Animals are not toys and not meant for our entertainment. If we do intend to use them for our well-being, we must be prepared to look after all its need. Doesn’t the boss of a company be prepared to look after the well-being of the employees? Doesn’t a parent need to be responsible for their helpless off-springs? If they don’t, what will be the consequences? And if we are demanding so much from an animal, why wouldn’t we at least let it live once its “use” is over?Coming back to the horse race, I was told that the Melbourne cup generates A$ 20 – 30 million over those 4 days. The least that can be done is set up a fund from the winnings of the day for the treatment of such injured horses. They deserve this.