Naturalness and the Legitimacy of Thoroughbred Racing: A Photo-Elicitation Study with Industry and Animal Advocacy Informants
2. Competing Conceptions of Naturalness
3. Materials and Methods
3.1. Scope of This Study
3.2. Informant Recruitment and Response
3.3. Data Collection and Analysis
3.3.1. The Photo-Elicitation Method
3.3.2. Image Creation and Selection
- The thoroughbred was to be the central focus, filling all or most of the image frame, with some contextual background where relevant.
- The scene, environment, equipment used and handling by any humans should generally be considered “common”.
- The photographs were not to depict any extreme responses of either human or horse.
- They should however depict some behavioural response that offered interest and room for interpretation.
- The photographs had to be of good quality in terms of framing, focus and exposure.
- Each image had to depict a different aspect of interest and context.
3.3.3. Photo-Elicitation Procedure
3.3.4. Data Analysis
4. Results and Discussion
4.1.1. Thoroughbred Industry Informants
4.1.2. Animal Advocacy Informants
4.2. Themes Emerging from Industry Informants’ Photo-Elicited Responses
4.2.1. Naturalising and Normalising the Horses’ Responses to Racing Practices
“[This image] with the guys—one, two, three, four, five guys, six guys… Yeah, that, unfortunately, [...] I think that horse doesn’t want to go and there is probably a good reason why. [...] I wouldn’t be happy to see that [...] with them pulling him in. I hate to see when it’s, you know, there on the side they are using a tow rope in his mouth, pulling him to the gate. There is something wrong with that horse, he doesn’t want to go.” (Thoroughbred industry informant TBI-9)
4.2.2. Downplaying the Impact and Role of Tack, Humans and Other Factors
Image 4 is the only image that elicited comments on the tack by all but one industry informant. They comment on the tongue-tie, and many responded similar to TBI-8: “He’s got a lot of equipment on”. TBI-3 and TBI-5 added the tongue-tie is very tight. The exception here is, again, TBI-1, who did not refer to the tongue-tie (but mentions the bit). While this is a passive downplaying through the act of ignoring, active downplaying is also evident. For example, referring to Image 3, TBI-4 acknowledged that “some horses are often agitated by the gate”. TBI-4 went on to explain that “it’s quite claustrophobic” and suggested other horses already in the stalls might be restless, banging the gates, jumping forward too soon or leaning back on the gate, and “there is a lot of noise”. This is one of the few instances where negative impacts were named and described by an industry informant. However, they were immediately downplayed by explaining it could be worse: “You know, no one has a stock whip on him, no one is hitting him, no one is, they are just trying to sort of coax it into the gate” (TBI-4).
4.2.3. A Visual Problem and a Call to Educate the Public
4.2.4. The Thoroughbred, a Willing Participant
4.3. Themes Emerging from Animal Advocacy Informants’ Photo-Elicited Responses
4.3.1. The Thoroughbred under Stress, Anxiety, Being Agitated and Disturbed
4.3.2. A Wide Range of Factors and Unnatural Conditions Impacting Thoroughbred Welfare
“Astounding. Absolutely astounding that this can ever be allowed. Which is, where the industry who talk about welfare of horses being a priority, this picture shows how bad the welfare is for horses. [...] [This horse is] absolutely stressed to the maximum. We see absolutely an overkill in the bitting and bridling of this horse. Again, we have the Dexter ring bit, which is a very severe bit for a hard-pulling horse. We’ve got a tongue-tie in there, which is obviously- We can only presume the agony for the horse. [...] We’ve got the horse with its mouth open trying to fight all that and [trying to get away] from it, which he can’t. We’ve got [...] a sheepskin noseband on there [...] to keep the horse’s head down. We’ve got a lead rein or a martingale coming off that Dexter bit [...]. His head looks beyond the vertical, so he has got airway obstruction. He has got three bits in his mouth. The nuchal ligament in the neck, he must be in agony with all this. You know the ligaments at the back of the neck, [...] they must be really stressed from all this, and probably, he’s got windpipe damage as well with all that going on. So, total overkill by people who do not understand this horse whatsoever. They are looking to control a horse through bitting and bridling that doesn’t want to be controlled. And this is welfare at its very worst. It’s a great photo to show that.” (Animal advocacy informant AAI-4)
4.3.3. A Visual Problem Reversed, and Another Call to Educate the Public
4.3.4. Horse-Human Interaction
4.4. Conceptualisations of Naturalness and the Nature of the Thoroughbred
4.4.1. Thoroughbred Industry Informants
4.4.2. Animal Advocacy Informants
“I also think of them as greatly exploited, because they have so little say in their lives, even those horses who are considered successful at what they do, there is usually no one person who is committed to that animal for their whole lives. They go off from barn to barn, they move from trainer to trainer, from jockey to jockey and all too often end up someplace horrible, at least in the United States. So, they are on the one hand the most revered, and on the other hand, the most discarded animal that I know of.” (Animal advocacy informant AAI-6)
4.5. Naturalness as a Lens for Thoroughbred Protection
4.5.1. Naturalness as a Guide Versus Naturalness as a Fallacy
4.5.2. Naturalness and the Legitimacy of Thoroughbred Racing
4.5.3. The Horse-Human Relationship as an Aspect of a Holistic Notion of Naturalness
Horse-human interactions undoubtedly influence both the subjective emotional experience and the behavioural expression of the horse. The influence may be due to the intensive management, handling and focused interaction associated with the process of training, and the physical and emotional demands placed on the animal in relation to performance. Methods of training and handling which provoke negative emotions and states such as fear, or where the individual experiences pain, may lead to short term success in relation to behavioural change, but will also produce fearful horses which are not desirable for the horse or human safety, nor successful for performance in the longer term. When frightened or anxious, horses will show escape responses ranging from agitation involving a raised head and neck to extreme reactions including bolting  (p. 184).
4.5.4. The Layers of Engagement with Animal Protection and Naturalness
4.5.5. Limitations and Recommended Research
Conflicts of Interest
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Bergmann, I.M. Naturalness and the Legitimacy of Thoroughbred Racing: A Photo-Elicitation Study with Industry and Animal Advocacy Informants. Animals 2020, 10, 1513. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani10091513
Bergmann IM. Naturalness and the Legitimacy of Thoroughbred Racing: A Photo-Elicitation Study with Industry and Animal Advocacy Informants. Animals. 2020; 10(9):1513. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani10091513Chicago/Turabian Style
Bergmann, Iris M. 2020. "Naturalness and the Legitimacy of Thoroughbred Racing: A Photo-Elicitation Study with Industry and Animal Advocacy Informants" Animals 10, no. 9: 1513. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani10091513