PETA calls for horse events to be banned from the Olympics following series of controversies in Tokyo

PETA calls for horse events to be banned from the Olympics following series of controversies in Tokyo

The animal welfare activist group PETA have called for all horse-related events at the Olympics to come to an end after Tokyo 2020 was marred with a series of controversies.

In a post on Facebook, PETA wrote: “Athletes can choose to compete, animals can’t. Horses don’t belong in the Olympics.”

The post also features a video of German modern pentathlon athlete Annika Schleu and her coach Kim Raisner hitting a horse, named Saint Boy, during the showjumping round of the competition that was startled and was refusing to jump. The caption in the video adds: “Punching a frightened horse is abuse. End horse events in the Olympics.”

Horses are randomly assigned to athletes in the modern pentathlon with the competitors allowed around 15 minutes to warm up with the animal. Schleu, who was leading the event at the time, was clearly distressed and in tears while on the Saint Boy but was widely condemned for her action towards the horse, with Raisner also being expelled from the Olympics.

This controversy was coupled with a tragedy in the equestrian cross country event where Swiss rider Robin Godel, who was on the horse Jet Set, saw the animal rupture a ligament and had to be removed from the course. The injury was later deemed to be irreparable and had to be put to ‘sleep.’

Many people agreed with PETA’s stance. In the comments to the video, one person wrote: “This is not a sport. The human just sits over the horse and pulls the strings of the horse to control him like a puppet. If the human does not move his human body to exercise then it is not a sport and does not belong to the Olympics!”

Another person said: “There needs to be letters written to the Olympic Committee to ban sports with animals...this is what we see on camera - scary to think of what goes on behind the scenes. I hope PETA is starting a petition to go to the Committee.”

After the incident involving Schleu and Raisner, Alfons Hoermann, president of the Germany Olympic Committee, called for changes to be made to the modern pentathlon event: “We were all in agreement that the coach will not be at the competition on Saturday. We also consider that an urgent review of the incident is necessary, especially in terms of animal protection, and that the national and international federations draw their conclusions.”

Although these incidents are distressing and in Schleu’s case avoidable, PETA’s campaign is unlikely to sway the International Olympic Committee as equestrianism has been a sport at the games since 1900.

Indy100 has contacted the IOC for comment.

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