It’s not every day I find myself in unconditional agreement with the boobalicious star of an eighties show I never watched and the model for a magazine I’ve never perused, but yesterday I found myself nodding enthusiastically while reading a CBC news story titled ‘Pam Anderson slams chuckwagon races’.
Two weeks ago I saw a story in the Calgary Herald describing research that was being conducted in order to determine how to reduce the number of horses that die in chuckwagon races. Well, here’s a bit of rocket science for you vets and scientists so bent on saving chuckwagon horses’ lives: stop racing them.
I had a go at the chuckers on this blog a year ago around Stampede time, and a few pro-chuckwagon commenters had a go at me in return. You know what, people who think chuckwagon racing is a dandy second career for racehorses? You’re wrong. There is no valid defense for this so-called ‘sport’. You say it saves the lives of ex-racehorses, while ignoring the obvious contradiction. Chuckwagon racing kills horses. Lots of them. Last week I was enjoying a pleasant drive on a country road when I heard on CBC news that three horses had died in a wreck at the stampede. The story included tearful testimony from Chad Harden, the owner and driver of the team that crashed. Chad blubbered on camera about how one of the horses was 18 years old and he had owned it for 13 years. “He was supposed to be my kid’s horse,” he whimpered. I was so mad I think I might have punched the steering wheel. So let me get this straight, Chad. The horse was 18 years old and had been chuckwagon racing for 13, presumably following a racing career of up to three years? Do I have that right? If anyone out there thinks there is nothing reprehensible about using a horse of that age and mileage in a horse race so brutal it makes Il Palio look like a horse’s spa day in comparison, I definitely don’t want to meet you at a cocktail party.
After the wreck, a bunch more people I don’t want to meet a cocktail party came forward in defense of the chuckers, one of which was a female newspaper reporter who says she spends most of her Stampede time hanging around the chucker stables. Setting aside my suspicion that this particular journalist suffers from cowboy lust, I have this to say in response to her claim that the chuckwagon horses are well cared for: Sure they are, honey. The Romans kept their gladiators well fed with grapes – both fresh and fermented – leading up to their life-and-death battles, too.
Of course, The Calgary Stampede has its bottom line to think about, and chuckwagon races are a popular event among people – people who I hope can plead complete ignorance of the cruel aspect of the race when they settle their butts in the grandstand seats, hot dog in one hand and beer in the other. I would like to propose a wonderful new event to replace the chuckers, one which is sure to fill the stands to bursting. It’s called Bull Poker. Like the chuckers, it has plenty of gore, but unlike the chuckers, the animal always wins.
Next time you are in Calgary in early July and wondering how to spend the day, allow me to suggest you choose something other than the Calgary Stampede on which to spend your time and money.