After basking in the glory achieved by Taiwan’s Olympians, let’s now take a good hard look at an extremely inglorious side of this Olympics – violence against animals. In a cruel holdover from much less enlightened times, the Olympic Games still has several events that involve horseriding, including the equestrian events of dressage, eventing and jumping, as well as the modern pentathlon. Any event that relies on horse-riding invariably also involves whipping the horses, among other instances of animal cruelty to “train”, “bond with” and “control” the horses. Why is it that a supposedly modern and global sporting event such as the Olympic Games encourages such horrendous cruelty to animals?
What makes this incongruity even more ludicrous is that a German modern pentathlon coach has been ejected from the Games, apparently for an instance of animal abuse that is against the rules, as opposed to the sanctioned violence that horses are usually forced to endure. The ban came after a social media backlash from netizens, when the coach made the cardinal mistake of being caught on camera punching a clearly distraught and – in the coach’s and athlete’s eyes – “uncooperative” horse. But if you watch the footage of the incident on YouTube, you will see that it is the rider who is in the middle of whipping the horse repeatedly when the coach (also an ex-athlete from the same event, by the way) strikes the horse with a closed fist. So, does this mean that punching a horse is totally unacceptable, but constantly whipping an animal with a riding crop is completely fine?
What kind of message does this send to all the fans of the world, and especially the children – that it’s okay to use animals as tools for human sport and entertainment, and if the animals don’t do what they’re forced or expected to do, you can just whip them into submission? If the Olympic Games are supposed to be all about giving athletes the chance to show off their physical prowess and mental resilience from all their years of hard work, it does not make sense for equestrian events to continue, when it is clearly the horses doing most of the hard work and suffering. I propose that they immediately ban these disgraceful events of animal cruelty altogether, and instead they can replace them all with hobbyhorse events in the future. Then at least we could be sure that the “riders” are the ones actually deserving of the medals.