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Enjoy the champagne, but insist on a fair non-crack of the whip

By Mirko Bagaric - posted Tuesday, 7 November 2006


It won’t be fun and frivolity for all at this year’s Melbourne Cup. While the punters are trying to beat the odds and indulging in strawberries and champagne, spare a thought for the stars of the show, many of whom will be relentlessly whipped.

There are no redeeming aspects to flogging horses. Leading horse trainer Monty Roberts, who provides advice to the Queen on all things horsey, has noted that speed technology measuring devices have shown that horses in fact normally slow down after being whipped. Moreover, 86 per cent of racing accidents involve the use of whips.

If you did to your dog what jockeys do to horses you’d quickly find yourself on a cruelty charge at the local Magistrates court.

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Now it shouldn’t come as a shock that there’s a bit of animal cruelty on the turf. When it comes to talking up the interests of beings that don’t talk, as a species humans have a gaping moral black spot. We stand idly by and allow millions of animals to be subjected to wanton acts of cruelty each year.

The main reason for this is that the average punter has no idea of the human savagery occurring behind the farm fence. It doesn’t help that animal welfare laws in Australia don’t extend to most of the 500 million production animals in this country.

While horse whipping barely registers on the pain register compared to the acts of barbarity that occur in the animal farming process, whipping remains disconcerting because it is done in full public glare.

Regrettably the frequency of the practice seems to have desensitised us to its depravity. It is time that we looked at the practice afresh and recalibrated our sympathy gland. If 100,000 plus spectators are content to watch live beings being flogged, what chance is there for those animals that suffer acutely in secret?

Horse whipping is tightly regulated in many parts of the world. In some parts of Europe a jockey can only hit the horse once every six strides. In Scandinavia the whip can only be used while the jockey has both hands on the reins. According to reports received by Roberts, Australia is known as the place of whips and dogs.

The Australian racing industry should show some moral leadership and put the whip to rest. Of course there is a place in our community for the horse whip. It belongs alongside the school strap in the museum as an example of past brutality.

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Still, the horses getting whipped are the lucky ones. It gets far worse when they finish their careers. Animal liberation has launched a public awareness campaign (horseracingkills.org) to coincide with the spring racing carnival informing the community of the fact that there are almost no happy endings for race horses.

Nearly all ex-race horses are killed in order to feed our cats and dogs. Most of the horses that avoid this fate endure a 10 to 14-hour road trip to Peterborough in South Australia where they are killed and their meat is exported to Japan to be eaten by humans.

Either way there is no value or fair bet as far as the horses are concerned.

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About the Author

Mirko Bagaric, BA LLB(Hons) LLM PhD (Monash), is a Croatian born Australian based author and lawyer who writes on law and moral and political philosophy. He is the author of 20 books and over 100 refereed scholarly articles. He is not connected with any political party or other interest group. He is the author of Australian Human Rights Law (forthcoming). Mirko is the author of Being Happy and Dealing with Moral Dilemmas.

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