In Vale Verema, but her death is no tragedy, senior sports reporter at The Age, Michael Lynch, writes:
I have the utmost respect for horses and agree that they are beautiful, noble creatures. I have seen them up close in a stable environment away from the track, and I have no truck with cruelty or abuse. I have met no one in the racing industry, here or overseas, who does.
But the reality is that in any sport or recreational pursuit involving horses (or livestock of any kind) there will be casualties.
It’s part of the risk inherent in such activity.
In this, he’s talking of a racehorse that was put down after the Melbourne Cup due to injuries sustained during the race.
That last line is particularly telling:
It’s part of the risk inherent in such an activity.
He’d previously stated:
But she was a horse, not a human being.
Yes, that’s very true. Verema was a horse, not a human being.
As a human being, her euthanasia in Australia would have been illegal. As a horse, there was no legal issue. Yet, Michael is significantly confused on the notion of consent. If Verema were capable of consent, for instance, she might have entered into a marriage with someone that Michael Lynch knew. Being incapable of consent, she wasn’t capable of getting married. (OK, that’s a weird comparison, but opponents of marriage equality get confused on consent as well, so it’s an interesting parallel to draw.)
So how could the horse have given consent to the “risk inherent in such an activity” as racing?
The answer of course is that it didn’t. The horse didn’t give its consent. There may have been acknowledged risks in racing, but the horse hardly acknowledged or agreed to those risks.
But all is OK, according to Michael:
It is a huge generator of economic activity, especially in rural and regional Australia. The local racetrack, particularly on country Cup day, is part of the glue that holds together small towns, often beset by population drift and a lack of employment opportunities.
In Victoria the equine fatality rate is one of the best in the world. The death rate is roughly 0.5 per 1000 runners – one horse for every 2000 competitors. In a year some 40,000 horses might start, which implies 20 fatalities.
Michael excuses the death on the basis of money, and that it’s an accepted risk, and that Verema was just a horse, after all.
There’s a real tragedy here, of course: the journalist. Someone who is so focused on sport and the money that it generates that the death of an animal in the pursuit of finance and titillation is acceptable.
A tragedy of Shakespearean proportions.