If You’re Upset By The Horse Deaths At Cheltenham…You Should Be Vegan
Moral confusion is rife surrounding the Cheltenham races, especially with the likes of Animal Aid describing the situation as “carnage,” as if our every day animal exploitation is not equally deserving of that label. Given how many “animal advocates” and “animal rights” groups fetishise certain forms of niche exploitation whilst neglecting to mention the every day, pervasive exploitation that non-veganism is responsible for, it’s no wonder that so many people are confused when it comes to animal ethics.
The Huffington Post put out an article showcasing the “staggering death toll” of British race horses prior to this years races. Animal aid campaigners have “revealed” that over 1,500 horses have died on racecourses across Britain in the last 10 years. Suffice it to say, Animal Aid are upset by these deaths and maintain that horse racing is an “exploitative activity.” Even the RSPCA has expressed that it was “concerned and sad” about the 7 horse deaths at the Cheltenham races last year.
What do these two groups have in common? Their desire to fundraise off a niche, single-issue and their failure to take animal interests seriously in perpetuating the idea that some forms of exploitation are worse than others. Animal Aid are ostensibly opposed to horse racing, but their rhetoric focusing on treatment even has the British Horseracing Authority confidently justifying the contiuation of horse racing as an institution. The BHA claims that British racing “is amongst the world’s best regulated animal activities” and that the horse fatality rate has fallen by a third in 20 years.
Animal Aid’s response to this isn’t to say that it doesn’t matter how low the fatality rate drops. Oh no, they don’t say that the fatality rate is irrelevant when considering the immorality of using animals as commodities at all. Instead, they merely state that the BHA should be “stripped of its role” and that the welfare of horses should be governed by an independent body “that would be motivated to stop what is blatant animal abuse.” Blatant animal abuse. In other words, the implication here is that there are ways to exploit and “abuse” animals that are not blatant. This not only legitimises the use of horses, it legitimises the use of animals as a general matter by suggesting that use without “abuse” is possible.
For those who are not vegan reading this, but who are upset by the prospect of more horse deaths this year, the reality is that there is no moral difference between our exploitation of horses and the exploitation of all other animals that we participate in every day when we are not vegan. Horse racing is morally wrong because it assumes horses to be nothing more than things for our entertainment; it assumes them to be our property with no moral value, where we can inflict unnecessary suffering and death on them for no greater reason than our pleasure. We reject this precisely because we all believe it’s wrong to inflict unnecessary suffering and death on animals.
Just like horse racing, all other forms of animal use are entirely unnecessary too. We consume, wear, experiment on, and use animals in a multitude of other ways with no greater justification than our pleasure or convenience. But our pleasure and convenience necessarily falls within the category of unnecessary suffering and death that we all claim to reject. Some people commodify horses and assume their moral worth to be zero; every non-vegan unjustly commodifies other animals (including horses) and assumes there moral worth to be zero too.
If you reject horse racing as a moral matter, you are also committed to rejecting the unjustifiable and unnecessary suffering and death we inflict on other animals by not being vegan. All sentient beings are equal for the purpose of not being used as resources. There is no moral difference between a horse and any other animal. If you believe horses to have moral value, that means you accept the moral value of all other sentient beings too. Recognising that moral value and acting on it means becoming vegan. Anything less is merely to say one thing yet act in ways contrary to what you say you believe.