The Queen is a cheat!

race horses

Horse racing, like equestrianism relies on ‘strict liability’ in the fight against doping.

Of course she is no such thing and you do not have to be a staunch monarchist to say so.  However the way that doping rules are written in sports where one of the athletes is non-human, horse racing for instance, mean that even she can be treated as one, even without proof of moral culpability.  This is because there is no consideration of whether the person in the ‘dock’ has deliberately or in legal terms, intentionally, given the prohibited substance to the animal.  Proof of completely innocent cross contamination might affect the length of any ban but the ‘conviction’ remains as does the stain on the sportsperson’s character.  I am not alone in thinking this is wrong, it is the way of things in human only sports, modelled on criminal offences like speeding and contravening a red stop light.  After all there is no point in saying to the magistrates that you just did not realise you were travelling over the speed limit, you will be convicted anyway, based on strict liability which takes no account of your thought process at all.  Human athletes have lost their livelihoods over taking Ibuprofen and a Vicks Inhaler product, both taken completely innocently.  This is bad enough, some academic commentators go as far as to say ‘repugnant’ but to take the same approach with non-autonomous animals means somewhere in pursuing the Corinthian Ideals we took a wrong turn and it is time we turned back.  This is why  I decided to focus much of my doctoral study on the construction of these kinds of rules in disputes involving sport horses, particularly over prohibited substances.


Last  year I was asked to do a short piece for ‘The Conversation’ about the Queen’s horse Estimate who in a post race test was found to have traces of morphine, probably from feed contaminated by accident during the manufacturing process.  Her Majesty the Queen is not a cheat but the rules as they are currently written take no account of that and punish anyway.  If that is the case for the Monarch, what hope do ordinary folk just starting out in equine -based sport have?…

The British Horse Racing Authority has revealed a total of seven racehorses have now tested positive for morphine in post-race samples. Unremarkable perhaps to a public jaded by reports of human athletes failing drugs tests, or even seeing drug abuse as a way of sporting life…. (Read the whole article at )

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Attack of the clones….

…well everyone else was getting in on the Star Wars act this week so why not?  The legality of and ethical issues around horse cloning is likely to be one of the themes I want to explore in my post-doctoral research.

Halflinger clone

A Halflinger mare gave birth to the first cloned foal in 2003

When I began to explore these issues as a sub-theme in my (unfortunately still at draft stage) PhD thesis I had thought that this was one for the far distant future.  I included them because in the rarified atmosphere of doctoral study you are still allowed to ‘crystal ball gaze’ a little bit, not everything has to be applicable here and now.  However I was unaware that the pace in this area was moving quite fast and I was only barely ahead of the game.  I was recently asked to do a piece for a technology website re-launching in  January 2016:


Whilst cloned humans, never mind cloned human athletes may be some way off, equine sport is already there.  In November 2015 it was announced that a Chinese and South Korean biotech consortium plan to open the world’s largest cloning ‘factory’ costing an estimated £20.6m in Tianjin, China.  As well as animals for food, the operation is expected to ‘mass produce’ animals like police sniffer dogs and also racehorses.  This is the latest step in developments that have been taking place for over a decade…..(read the whole article at

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Only fools and horses….

…work as the saying went long before the TV series did.  The way that horses contribute to the economy and society more generally has changed dramatically from the days of horse-drawn ploughs and open landaus carrying the well heeled to and fro.  Nevertheless the horse is much more than an a remnant of a pre-industrial past.  The present day contribution of the horse to sport, sales and marketing, art and culture, rehabilitation and therapy and the leisure industry is real and measured in billions of dollars worldwide.

Completion Of The World's Largest Of Equine Sculptures

FALKIRK, SCOTLAND – NOVEMBER 27: Donna Auchinvole with Duke and Lorraine Clark with Barron, Clydesdale Horses, attend a topping out ceremony at The Kelpies on November 27, 2013 in Falkirk, Scotland. Construction work has been completed on Andy Scott’s Kelpies, the world’s largest pair of equine sculptures and one of the UKs tallest pieces of public art. The 30 metre tall Kelpies have cost £5million to complete and play a central role in the £43 million, 350-hectare Helix land transformational project between Falkirk and Grangemouth. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images) ORG XMIT: 452717073

The articles and posts in this online publication are to promote discussion of the issues which matter for people who work or play with horses, own them, ride them or just love them.  Horse sport is regulated, mostly by sports governing bodies, but the state is responsible for legislation and policy which governs many other aspects from veterinary treatment to ownership records.  In short horses still work and there is plenty to talk about…..

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