Sunday, 9 July 2017


Animal liberation groups and all that. From the mainstream generally peaceful groups to the those that take direct action. We don't seem to read as much about them as we did in the past. And they don't get on the news as much either.  

The media don't find them that intriguing anymore and would rather afford space to other topics with the environmentalists and their concerns now becoming flavour of the day. Witness the recent airtime and newspaper space given to the Whale with the plastic waste inside. Perceived cruelty in horse racing will not have an audience engrossed on the same level.

During the 1970's ,1980's and into the 1990's the anti horse racing brigade and the strong 'link' they had with their showcase pet hate event the Grand National use to find their way into newspapers, TV and radio broadcasts. I even remember a couple of misguided working class housewives standing outside a betting office with a placard showing a horse with a broken leg getting into their local newspapers as well as some airtime on a local radio station.

On the day Synchronised would die in the Grand National I passed a handful of demonstrators holding a mini demonstration outside the racecourse before racing. A hippy female with a haughty voice was asking something like, ' how many horses are you going to watch being murdered today'.

Not unusual rhetoric for them but I could not help noticing that they all looked as though they had seen better days. In fact I doubt any of then were under fifty. Ironically they were probably hoping there would be some equine loss of life to justify their concerns.They got their wish.

Anyone reading the increasingly outlandish Racing Post this week could be forgiven for believing that we have an emerging generation that are vigilant to and monitor racing issues and that they will not become fully fledged converts unless changes are made.

Whether it was for controversy for the purpose of selling copies and an attempt to reinvigorate  a stale publication or whether it is heartfelt, Tom Kerr's  support for the whip being moved from UK horse racing has caused a stir.

It has undoubtedly polarised opinion though it is a subject that most of us are not qualified to comment on and very much one for the confines of the horseman's court. Genuine racing fans can have a valid opinion on a ride given to a horse that cannot be rebuked with a  'How many winners have you rode ?' But whips and their requirement and proper use of fall into a more complex category.

Common sense however will cast doubt  on whether  eighty odd stone of horse can feel pain inflicted by a weedy air cushioned whip. In fact Kerr conceded in his article that he does not believe the whip is cruel but that it is incompatible with the views of the younger generations. How does he arrive at this presumption?

Take a second to consider your workplace or pubs that you visit. Fact is apart from chatter concerning a day at one of the cult tracks like Chester, horse racing rarely gets discussed. No one is interested anymore. Even Grand National conversations are notably rarer than they once were. And if none of them are interested in horse racing anymore then items like the use of whips are never going to be of any concern to these people.They have more urgent issues to occupy themselves with.

Remember we live in a world where twenty four hour close up coverage of war and carnage are broadcast to our homes. Far too much horror for jockeys,whips and horses to be high up on the agendas of the multitudes.

What we appear to have is a ludicrous scenario whereby modernist dullards in positions of influence within racing have decided that the sport must alter its image for the purpose of holding on to a younger audience that does not exist and to attract fresh interest from a generation that are never going to be bitten by the racing bug.

And of those that do claim to have a problem with welfare issues with racehorses most will have their attention turned to Hamburg at the moment and some will even be among the protesters, both the peaceful and the rampant. They may own a St Pauli  T shirt, idolize their legends such as Andreas Baader, listen to the Stones, Amon Düül II  and Deep Purple, and may even live in a proper commune and paint strange pictures or build weird sculptures to sell for money for their essentials.

But with more pressing issues whips and horse racing for now at least will be far from their thoughts and any needless radical changes within the sport will be self inflicted by the egoistic from within and do nothing to increase its ebbing popularity.

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