Naturalness and the Legitimacy of Thoroughbred Racing: A Photo-Elicitation Study with Industry and Animal Advocacy Informants
School of Geosciences, The University of Sydney, 2006 New South Wales, Australia
Received: 24 June 2020
Revised: 19 August 2020
Accepted: 22 August 2020
Published: 26 August 2020
The international thoroughbred industry is concerned about the public’s perception of racing. Therefore, the industry’s priorities are to address the publicly most visible and known welfare violations. However, common day-to-day racing practices also impact thoroughbred welfare. In this study, key industry informants and animal advocacy informants were interviewed to find out how they view common racing practices. For the interviews, photographs of thoroughbreds on race day were used, which the informants were asked to describe. Results show industry informants often naturalise, normalise, downplay or ignore the horses’ expressions, the impact of handling on the horse and the use of equipment. The animal advocacy informants tend to describe a horse whose nature is violated. In conclusion, the industry informants show limited interest in addressing common racing practices, and this places thoroughbred welfare at risk. Both groups of informants have different ideas about what is natural and what that means for thoroughbred welfare. With society’s understanding of welfare and of racing practices growing, the racing industry may be increasingly questioned about common racing practices. This article discusses the notion of naturalness in more detail and how it can be used to advance thoroughbred protection.