PETA seeks an end to horse sports at the Olympics

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The arena for the jumping phase of the women's modern pentathlon.
The arena for the jumping phase of the women’s modern pentathlon. © IOC/Filip Komorous

The animal advocacy group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) wants horses out of the Olympics.

Its senior vice-president for equine matters, Kathy Guillermo, has written to the International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach outlining the organisation’s concerns.

Her letter was in response to incidents in the modern pentathlon, in which some horses and riders failed to gel, the sight of blood around the nostrils of a horse in the individual showjumping competition, and a leg injury to a Swiss horse, Jet Set, who was euthanised during the cross-country phase of the eventing competition.

Guillermo, in her letter, asserted that the controversy over equestrian sports has grown, especially during the events of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

She said PETA, which has more than 6.5 million members and supporters worldwide, wanted all equestrian events removed from the Games.

“Just as the Olympics evolved to include sports that are of current interest — like skateboarding, surfing, and sport climbing — in a world that increasingly refuses to accept abuse in any form, it’s time to remove sports that are no longer supported by the public. Otherwise, you risk losing your social license to operate,” she wrote.

PETA president Ingrid Newkirk said the Olympic Games aimed to showcase human athletes, “not the ability to terrify and injure horses who don’t choose to compete yet are doing all the work, sometimes at the cost of their very lives”.

“Just as the games have evolved to include modern sports like skateboarding, PETA is calling on the International Olympic Committee to relegate abusive equestrian events to the history books.”

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