Goodbye to All Who Sacrificed, and Barbaro Too

Posted by Dana Campbell, ALDF's Chief Contract Attorney on February 5, 2007

Despite the abundance of media eulogies this past week for the late, great racehorse Barbaro, winner of the 2006 Kentucky Derby and likely Triple Crown contender, I found two questions that remained unaddressed: What Is the True Cost, and Was It Necessary?

TIME Magazine’s editorial by Sean Gregory dated January 29th was a good example of the editorials that expounded on whether the 8 months of pain for Barbaro and the extraordinary medical costs spent by Barbaro’s owners to try and help him recover from a devastating broken leg suffered at the start of the Preakness race in May was worth it. Gregory did acknowledge that “In virtually all such injuries, the racehorse would be euthanized–the unfortunate cost of a brutal, beautiful sport where 1,200-lb beasts fire down tracks on bean-pole legs,” eventually concluding that the extraordinary horse was in fact worth it.  However, were I writing that sentence, I would have used the phrase “unnecessary cost of a brutal sport” because, really, is it ever necessary to send those beautiful beasts thundering over the raceways solely for the entertainment it provides to us selfish, apparently bored humans?

The New York Times editorial on January 30th provided a good example of the other type of articles that appeared this past week, one a bit more sensitive in recognizing that every horse is “pure of heart” and as such all should evoke “the generosity of conscience…that was expended in the effort to save this one horse.” The article actually even decried the sport of horse racing as being “as often barbarous as it is beautiful.”

But no articles I saw ever questioned the necessity of the sport, nor focused on evaluating the cost of all those horses euthanized before Barbaro in the name of racing, nor on the horses sick or injured and injected with drugs so they could continue racing anyway, nor on those sent to slaughterhouses before they made the cut, or after their glory days were over.  To me, the hundreds of thousands of dollars spent on Barbaro’s medical care are not the true cost of this latest tragedy–it is the hundreds of thousands of lives sacrificed or compromised for the sport.

For all of horse racing’s equines, glorious winners and those never to achieve fame, we owe not only a moment of silence and remembrance of their sacrifice this week, we owe them a commitment to make this a better world for their highly engineered, perfectly genetically matched offspring.

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