Last Saturday, the Grand National, one of the most prestigious fixtures in the horse racing calendar, was delayed for four minutes while police officers arrested protesters. Animal rights activists had elected to sabotage the three-day Aintree festival in general, and in particular, its high point, the Grand National. They wished to highlight what they say is the cruelty to, and exploitation of, horses for the purpose of entertainment.
Let us first consider specifics. As far as the Grand National is concerned, after all, that was the race they were particularly targeting, they might have a point. It has long been argued that too many horses start the race, and that the number should be reduced, which would increase safety for both horses and jockeys.
The going is less firm for them, though, when it comes to their general contention that horse racing is inherently cruel. Horses will, quite naturally, race one another. They can also be incredibly stubborn. If they don’t want to race, they won’t. There is no compulsion. They either want the stimulation of a race, or to please a jockey with whom they have bonded, or they don’t, and are quite happy to let their stablemates get on with it.
The propagandists would have us believe that race horses are neglected and kept in conditions of abject squalor. This is nonsense. They are kept in high quality stables, and should the need arise, get the best veterinary care available. The average race horse is fitter and healthier than most animals. Actually, they are probably fitter an healthier than most people too. This is hardly surprising. Do not forget, dear reader, that even to the most disinterested owner, a race horse represents a considerable investment. The owner will, therefore, be hoping for a reasonable return on that investment. He’ll hardly get that if he allows the horse to be neglected or abused.
Most of these campaigners wish to see a ban on horse racing. This is, of course, an utterly foolish position for them to take. Not only will it create substantial unemployment, but what on earth do they think will happen to the horses? And to future generations of horses?
A similar deficiency of thought afflicts the minds of those people who, with fire in their bellies, and a missionary zeal in their hearts, go fourth to spread the gospel of veganism. They have chosen, for reasons of conscience, not to eat flesh from the birds of the air, the beasts of the field, or the fishes of the sea, nor will they consume dairy products or eggs. Likewise, they will avoid the use of wool, leather and fur, and presumably, would choose not to own antiques made, or at least partially made, from bone, ivory or horn. So far, so reasonable. Nobody should have to consume any part or parts of animals against their will. However, what is unreasonable, is the demand that the rest of us should follow their example.
If we were all to become vegans, what would become of the animals we were hoping to save? Quite simply, they would die. Farmers would end up having to cull their herds and flocks, as unnaturally large populations of cattle, sheep, pigs, chickens, and many other animals would be unsustainable in the wild. All of those millions of corpses would, in turn, create environmental and/or health problems. As with a ban on horse racing, there would be a huge increase in the number of unemployed people – farmers, butchers, cheese makers, people who process leather, wool and silk, and a whole host of others. How would people’s pets be fed? Or would they have to expire too, so that we can’t exploit them for our personal pleasure and comfort? Will guide dogs and police dogs become extinct because exploitation is wrong, or because they simply starve? If we are to accept the specious argument that becoming vegan will immeasurably improve the environment, how, with no animals to provide manure, are crops to be fertilised? Do they seriously want us to continue to use toxic chemicals? What, with no animals, are we to use as an alternative to plastic. Oh, hang on, plastic is made from oil, which is made from … umm … animals that died millions of years ago. Oops.
Some people wish to have the freedoms to disapprove of equestrian sports, and to repudiate the consumption of all animal products. These freedoms should absolutely be their’s, and should be respected. Other people wish to enjoy equestrian sports, and to enjoy animal products, and they too should be given those freedoms, and those freedoms should also be respected. If the former group of people wish to convert the latter to their cause, not only do they need to stop their bullying, militant tactics, but they need to provide some sensible answers to some simple questions.
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