News and commentary about the Great Frontiers

ISS007-E-10807 (21 July 2003) --- This view of Earth's horizon as the sunsets over the Pacific Ocean was taken by an Expedition 7 crewmember onboard the International Space Station (ISS). Anvil tops of thunderclouds are also visible. Credit: Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, NASA Johnson Space Center

Image Credit: ISS007-E-10807 (21 July 2003) – Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, NASA Johnson Space Center

Saying Goodbye to Horse Racing


Derby winner Barbaro fighting for life – Yahoo! News [defunct link]

Growing up, one of my favorite things to do around my birthday was to watch the Kentucky Derby. I continued that tradition through collegeand adulthood.

Barbaro won the race this year, but it was the first I did not watch. Although I love watching the horses race, lately I have felt uneasy about how humans treat other species. Using an animal in sport for our own amusement suddenly seems like an immature activity.

A couple weeks later, Barbaro was the favorite for the Preakness, but a horrific accident at the beginning of the race left one of his legs broken and fans waiting to hear if he would make it through the day.

His recovery was immediate and successful and for a few weeks it seemed he would only continue to improve. Sadly, that is no longer expected to be the case. Laminitis has infected his left hind leg and horses do not generally recover from as severe a case as his. His doctor says that they will know more in 24 hours. Should he show signs of discomfort in his gait, he will be shot to death. Experts say there is no coming back once it reaches that stage.

The pending death of Barbaro suggests that we humans should reconsider our exploitation of animals. I would never support a sudden ban on the use of animals for sport, work, or experimentation, but I hope that we soon begin the long process of weaning ourselves from our dependence on them. We would not be where we are today without the exploitation of animals, but traditions do not need to continue indefinitely, especially when technology is rapidly changing all of the former rules.

It is very difficult for me to say goodbye to the enjoyment of watching the Kentucky Derby. However, the Barbaro’s horrible experience convinces me that this is the right decision. Everyone needs to reach such decisions on their own, through constant reflection and rational thought, without unnecessary fear mongering and legislation. I have reached my own limits of comfort, and I hope others will begin reflecting on these issues as our traditions fall away.

This is a time when we can begin thinking about our relationship with other forms of life on this planet. Are we stewards, owners, consumers, or family of other species? Where do they fit in as technological progress leads us inevitably toward profound changes within our own species? Do we bring them along, leave them alone, or consider them at all?

The challenge now is simply to begin thinking about these issues and revisiting our most cherished beliefs and traditions. A few years from now, there will only be time for action.

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