Author Topic: Jumps racing is bullfighting for white people - powerful opinion piece  (Read 1750 times)

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Jumps racing is bullfighting for white people - powerful opinion piece
« Reply #1 on: April 13, 2012, 11:39:46 PM »
By David Penberthy. Bullfighting is sick, stupid and cruel. About 25 years ago while living in Mexico I was invited by a bunch of schoolmates on a road trip to a town called Tezuitlan in the Sierra Madre mountains, which is famous for its annual bullfighting festival.

I declined the invitation, telling my mates that while I respected their traditions, bullfighting wasn’t for me. Whatever, gringo, they replied, rolling their eyes at my softness, and saying I was welcome to spend the school holidays kicking around at home on my own, while they loaded the car with beer and tequila and spent three days partying in the mountains

Not a bad point that. Bugger it, I’m in.

The blokes convinced me to attend just the one fight. Soon enough we were sitting in a jam-packed grandstand with a spectacularly out-of-tune mariachi band playing behind us, sharing swigs from a bottle of Jose Cuervo as it was passed on up the line, surrounded by women who looked like Salma Hayek and who squealed and covered their faces as the first bull came charging into the ring.

Bullfighting is the least fair of fights. The reason the bull charges out of the corral in the first place is because it has just been stabbed in the side with a knife. The animal is not yet mortally wounded, just really pissed off. At this initial stage, the only even part of the fight takes place, involving the insanely brave picadors. It is perversely compelling.

The picadors have decorative foot-long wooden sticks with nails in the end of them, and they stand or even kneel in the middle of the ring and goad the bull into charging them. With the speeding bull’s horns are just inches from their chest, the picadors try in one split-second move to jab the sticks into the back of the bull’s neck and then roll out of the animal’s path. If they get both sticks in, the crowd erupts.

By the time the matador comes out though, the bull has spent ten minutes being tormented and teased. It has also suffered the most brutal part of the process – the arrival of an armour-clad horse, its rider armed with a massive spear. When the bull charges the horse, the rider thrusts the spear deep into the back of the bull’s neck. It is a mortal injury. It is why the bull’s head is hanging when the matador comes out to prance around, finally killing the animal with a long blade under his cape, and being rewarded for a “good” kill by being presented with the severed ears and tail of the dead bull.

As I said, I’d agreed to go to the one fight. To my shame we bought a three-day pass and went to a dozen. I would never attend one again and like many Mexicans cannot see why this non-sport has not been banned.

Bullfighting is the kind of thing which judgmental westerners hold up as an example of the barbarity of life in a country such as Mexico. Maybe so. In moral terms I’d argue that there’s only a marginal difference between a bullfight and the annual horse-slaughtering festival otherwise known as Oakbank, the Easter steeplechase carnival in the Adelaide Hills.

Indeed maybe the Mexicans deserve a bonus point for at least being brutally honest. While in bullfights animals are killed with intent, in jumps racing they are killed with indifference. The people who love jumps racing are identical to advocates of bullfighting in that the only pathetic argument they have at their disposal for the continuation of the “sport” is tradition.

I am sure the people who own these horses and the people who watch them run feel love for the animals. It’s a funny kind of love. The death statistics from jumps racing are appalling. The manner in which the horses die is worse. The Australian’s Patrick Smith wrote a gut-wrenching column two years ago about the death of a horse called Sirrocean Storm at Warrnambool. “You see the horse, leg so badly broken it flies back and forth like a swing, a straight leg turned into a grotesque U shape,” Smith wrote. “You see the horse collapse and the jockey try to tend to it. Sirrocean Storm gets on to its three legs only to fall down again. The imperative now is to clear the track so the race can be completed.”

Smith then described how the stewards had forced the poor crippled horse to stand up not once but three times so the race could continue and the punters could still have their flutter. He provided a link to the YouTube footage of the race. It is almost unwatchable, every bit as cruel as what went on in the ring in Tezuitlan. The rationalisations which the racing community made for the killing of that horse – that its death was humane, that they had no choice but to make it stand up to clear the track – are no different from the exculpatory nonsense which the pro-bullfighting Mexicans spout about how the bulls are all going to die anyway for human consumption.

The stats on animal welfare websites show that each year for the past decade as many as a dozen horses have been killed in jumps racing. Most states have now banned it, but not Victoria and not SA. It is ridiculous Polly-Anna nonsense for anyone to express surprise or dismay at the death of two horses at Oakbank last weekend. There is nothing remotely surprising about their deaths. Their deaths were mundane and predictable. Steeplechase deaths are the only sure thing in horse-racing. Until the people behind this sport have the decency to admit that it is cruel, and agree that the steeplechase be replaced with a conventional racing carnival, the only people who should look forward to this annual slaughter are Adelaide’s glue-makers.

Tradition of itself is not an argument for the retention of anything. Even the Catalonians have now banned bullfighting. The rest of Spain will probably follow suit. As for the Mexicans, who knows. A lot of them are barbarians.

We had a wonderful time of it at Oakbank, though. Lovely weather, a few cheeky vinos, couple of wins. Terribly sad about those horses.

David Penberthy
13 Apr 2012