Racing with animals
The NSPCA opposes animal racing in any form.
The sport of animal racing is highly lucrative to human patrons but extremely detrimental to the welfare of animals. On the day of the race the event and animals may appear to be acceptable, however, it is what happens before and after the races that are our main concerns.
Dogs, pigeons and horses are just some of the animals used for competitive racing.
These athletes do not get luxury time off. When not training they are confined and their freedom and expression is limited. They are not able to enjoy the social structures normal to their species. Housing facilities are often substandard.
Training methods are not necessarily humane and are cause for grave concern – the use of drugs, physically harmful techniques and the use of live bait are common occurrences.
Animals used for racing have a relatively short competitive lifespan as they are so prone to injuries. While drugs may be used to mask injuries to force the animals to compete for as long as possible, eventually they are no longer effective and animals are disposed of.
They are only champions when they are winning - these animals are not pets.
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Many people believe that animals used in racing sports do so willingly and that they were "bred” to do so. Not many people know the extensive training these animals go through to enable them to compete.
More than 50% of pigeons being trained to compete in various races do not survive training and do not make it to the actual main race. More than 50% of the remainder of pigeons who make it to the main race do not return. This means that over 75% of the pigeons entered originally do not survive pigeon racing.
In 2013 the NSPCA issued a warning regarding pigeon races exceeding 1000 kilometres, which in our view is cruel, inhumane and may constitute a contravention in terms of the Animals Protection Act. An urgent high court application was brought against the NSPCA by pigeon fanciers to set the warning aside. The North Gauteng High Court dismissed the application with costs and pigeon races exceeding 1000 kilometres were declared inhumane and illegal.
Although it would appear that these horses receive royal treatment, there is usually no real bond between the horse and its owner or owners. The horse is seen as an investment and each horse could have several investors, claiming and sharing winnings. These horses are usually left with trainers to train, and each trainer would have several horses under his management. This in itself brings a number of welfare concerns. Apart from the use of performance enhancing drugs and whips, it is the jockey's responsibility to ensure that the horse wins. This sometimes comes at huge cost to the horse. It is not uncommon for horses to be shot on the track due to broken legs. Other concerns include the track's density, which results in the horses being lame and under condition the day after the race. These horses are exploited for money and when they can no longer earn their keep they become expendable. Well-known race horses have been left in fields to starve because they started losing races and were sold off to inexperienced horse owners.
Bush and Endurance Racing
The horses utilised in bush racing are usually crossbred ponies and do not always receive the same high-level care afforded to thoroughbreds. There are welfare implications regarding their diets, warm-up routines, transport, equipment, injuries and injured horses being raced, as well as the weights they are expected to carry. Bush racing has been legalised in the gambling sector. Endurance rides bring with them their own welfare concerns since races are spread over a couple of days and across very rough terrain.
Updated: 8 April 2016