W. Hays Parks
20 October 2010
Are We “They”?
The Paradoxes Facing Modern Day Thoroughbred and Greyhound Racing
All of my life I have been around Thoroughbred and Greyhound racing. I have relatives that were thoroughbred breeders, and I have worked as a teller at an Off Track Betting facility for Gulfstream Park. With the knowledge and experiences I have, I have never considered the anti-racing advocates as anything more than uninformed, dyspeptic white noise.
One of my earliest childhood memories is in fact my first trips to a Greyhound and Thoroughbred racetracks. And there is a distinction between the two. ...view middle of the document...
It is with that experience that I was left to question the paradoxes of inhumane conduct in racing. I struck up a small-talk conversation with a grocery store checker. It left me asking deep questions that I found unsettling. Just in passing, I mentioned to her that my family had always had Great Danes, Dachshunds, and Greyhounds as pets. At the mention of Greyhounds, her demeanor changed in a flash, and she retorted, “I hate what they do to those dogs.”
Just exactly who is this nebulous they? And is it in fact all of us? And do the anti-racing advocates exploit the very animals they claim to protect? While my initial impetus for this project was greyhounds, there are parallels with thoroughbreds that offer insight as well.
We live in a time in the United States when we, as an electorate could not be more divided. Responsible, constructive discourse has been replaced by petty, supercilious venom. College textbooks, no doubt approved by department heads, are more intent on political correctness and jabs at previous Presidents than actually covering the subject they are ostensibly teaching. Racing fans and anti-racing advocates face the same dilemma. There is room for improvement in both fields of racing, but anti-racing advocates will be sated only with complete abolition. In the end, resolution is no closer, and the animals are merely pawns in a game of one-upmanship.
The first question is: Are thoroughbreds and greyhounds being exploited? Or is racing and running something that comes to greyhounds and thoroughbreds naturally? As Laura Hillenbrand pointed out in her award winning biography of Seabiscuit, thoroughbreds (as well as greyhounds) are literally born to run (Hillenbrand). Yearlings will race against each other as a form of play. Running is instinctual, and horses are herd animals so they run together. They have no choice. As Sally Jenkins of the Washington Post said, “Anyone who has spent time around a barn understands that horses love to run. They do it for fun. A few years ago, I stood in a field of yearlings in Ocala, Fla., and watched them tear around in circles like children in a playground” (Jenkins).
The first attraction most people have to greyhounds is their speed. They can reach a speed of up to forty-five miles per hour in a very short distance. The shape of their nose and body is odd compared to the average house pet, but it is clear that nature built this dog to be fast. Even the head is aerodynamic, with a nose shaped to pierce the air at high speed. In addition, studies have shown that greyhounds have the highest level of fast twitch muscle fiber of any dog, and carry more red blood cells. With more red blood cells the dog can process oxygen faster than other breeds (Snow). Greyhounds are a hound, and thus a hunting dog. They do not hunt by scent however, but by sight and speed (American Kennel Club).
The problem that faces greyhound racing, and thus...