The Grand National

The Grand National happened over the weekend. The Grand National is a horse race which is supposed to be a national institution. In reality, it is difficult to think of anything less interesting or less appealing. I watched the beginning of it one year on television. It was the ultimate event in terms of boredom. I myself rode horses when I was a child. Quite what the horse had to done to deserve this indignity I am not quite sure.

There is a dark side to the Grand National.  Indeed there is the same dark side to all horse racing. Horses fall over & get trampled upon. Then they are what is euphemistically called put down. They are killed. Their lives are entirely given over to running with a man on top of them faster than another horse with a man on top of them. This year 2 horses died.

For better or worse, horses have always been beasts of burden. They are used to plough fields, they are used as cavalry in warfare, they are used for recreation, as toys in fact. Horses trapped in big bodies are slaves to men. They are specially bred to have long legs, genetically bred that is, so that they can run faster than the other horses. If they break a leg, normally they are killed. They are hit with a whip, time & time again on the course as though they do not feel pain. When I was a child, we were all hit on occasion or more frequently than that with a stick, not a whip – a whip is used it looks, to the uninitiated like myself at least dozens of times. Being hit a few times, 6 at most, was excruciatingly painful. It is impossible to imagine the pain they feel being hit that many times. They lead short lives, these horses. Racing has been called the sport of Kings. Well so what? Kings are not exactly known for their wisdom or intelligence or compassion.

There is something noble about horses it is true. They seem to bear all this beast of burden stuff with so much equanimity. They are treated as though they are not living creatures.  I know of no hierarchy which places horses above any other living creature. But then by what right do human beings claim to be above other living creatures? With human beings, we strive officiously to keep alive, with other living creatures we accord them no rights at all. They are bred so that they can be killed & eaten by us. They are used as weapons of war. They are beasts of burden. When animals are no longer of any use to us, the human race, so-called homo sapiens – we kill them.

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