I am sure it isn't the first time and it won't be the last time I read or hear something similar in sentiment but I came across a comment from someone which reflected the title of this blog entry.
The person in question wonders if there should be a fixed number of kicks (oops, boots?) allowed because when you think about it, it isn't as cruel as whipping is, right? The person goes on to say people are equating what happens to a person when they get kicked to what is happening to a horse, suggesting the horse doesn't feel it the same way we do,
Well, not being a horse I can't say how it feels to a horse. For that fact I don't think anyone can and unfortunately, since horses can't talk ("Paging Mr. Ed"), we don't know what a horse thinks other than it moves faster so it must be spooked or otherwise trying to run away from the boot. What we can imagine is how it would feel for us to be running and continuously knock into something each time we took a stride. I don't believe we would appreciate it and while it may be a case of antrhopomorphizing, I suspect a horse doesn't appreciate it either based on their reaction.
But back to the original question, is booting less cruel when compared to whipping? There lies the problem. When we are measuring degrees of cruelty, we acknowledge booting is improper. One can't say drowning in one foot of water is better than drowning in six feet of water, dead is dead. Hence, cruel is cruel.
For those who reject kicking/booting is cruel, let's agree it looks bad to the 'non-experts'. Therefore, if the perception is kicking is bad, for all practical purposes, it is bad. Offensive to the sensibilities of many of the people who would witness it in person, on television or on YouTube.
Is it a question of political correctness running amok? Not really, the fact is society's sensibilities towards the treatment of animals have evolved. Without going into detail, suffice it to say some of the things which were considered acceptable treatment of horses years ago is no longer considered acceptable. Racing needs to adapt to the new sensibilities or else risk going away. After all, if people who gamble on standardbreds find kicking offensive, what are those who are potential customers going to think?