While I fully support the right of any worker to withdraw their labour, the strike by Jockeys on Monday is one I cannot support. The fact that the Jockeys are condoning the use of the whip on race horses and are even trying to force a change of the new rules show that the welfare of their mounts is the last things on their minds.
The abuse of the whip in horse racing has gained prominence in recent years, culminating in the report by Animal rights campaigners Animal Aid last year. When the Grand National winner this year, Ballabriggs, had to be lead immediately to the stables after the race, “suffering from dehydration” after visible excess use of the whip, ridden by a jockey with previous bans for excessive use of the whip. McGuire was banned again for the needless abuse he dealt out to his mount that day.
Anyway, the rules have been tightened up, so that now the whip can be used only 7 times in a flat race, and 8 times in a national hunt race. There are limits on the number of times it can be used at the end of a race too. However, after senior jockey Richard Hughes was banned on the first day of the new rules and then banned again a few days later, he announced he was giving up the saddle until the rules were changed. Now other top jockeys have announced they will be protesting on Monday in sympathy.
To anyone concerned about the welfare of animals, the abuse heaped out on thoroughbred racehorses is nothing short of criminal. If you or I were to do the same to any animal in any other context we would whisked to court and banned from keeping animals, not for a few days like Hughes, but for years. The common response to these accusations of cruelty is that “the horse hardly feels a thing” and “its only giving a little encouragement”. Well, if it hardly feels a thing – what’s the point of it, and if its only giving a little encouragement, why don’t we use it on jockeys too?
In short there should be a total ban on the use of a whip in horse racing. It won’t affect the quality of the race – as all competitors will be equal. Horses will be able to show their natural ability, and wont be flogged half to death. We wont have to worry about Jockey A only used the whip 6 times because he was worried about being banned, while Jockey B managed to use it 8 times because the stewards didn’t see him etc.
I cant support this strike, and if it means more junior jockeys getting a chance to show how they can ride without thrashing their mounts, all the better.