By Robyn Louw
Many years ago, we were away on a family holiday along with my aunt and younger cousins. The baby of the family was at that exploratory stage where they were still finding out about their body and every so often my aunt would have to admonish them to stop. Eventually my cousin, clearly frustrated, retored “But mommy, it’s nice!” To which there wasn’t really an answer because of course the child was correct and what they were doing was perfectly normal and natural, but so began the tedious process of explaining what society does and does not deem acceptable behaviour and how we need to modify our behaviour in order to fit in.
Of course, what society does and does not deem acceptable behaviour changes as society evolves and (hopefully) becomes more civilised and educated and thoughtful about its environment.
And I think therein lies the crux of the matter for racing. Society is changing and so is what is deemed acceptable and racing is increasingly coming up against the issue of changing social and ethical norms. While there are increasing numbers of welfare groups and folks out saving the rainforest, using roll-on deodorants and campaigning for less packaging on our groceries, at the same time modern society and the urban sprawl means that we are less and less connected to the natural world and to the natural food chain.
Modern life is all about convenience. We are so used to buying ready meals and neatly packaged, sanitised everything that no-one really has to consider the real source anymore. Eggs come in boxes (not out of chickens), milk comes in cartons (not out of cows) and our meat comes beautifully packaged in sanitised and easy to use portions with a happy cartoon figure – if anything – of the animal that died for your dinner. There is a fundamental disconnect, but the consumer aspect of it means that large groups of people / consumers have strong opinions about things that they do not really understand. People will happily criticise a handler leading a colt around a parade ring in the strongest terms despite never having handled one in their life and whether it makes sense or not, this poses a problem for racing and that problem is going to increase unless we take steps to address it.