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Chasing Secretariat's Consent: The Impossibility of Permissible Animal Sports

By James Rocha

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Tom Regan argued that animal sports cannot be morally permissible because they are cruel and the animals do not voluntarily participate. While Regan is correct about actual animal sports, we should ask whether substantially revised animal sports could be permissible. We can imagine significant changes to certain animal sports, such as horse racing, that would avoid cruelty and even allow the animals to make their own choices. Where alternative options are freely available, we can consider the horses to have preference autonomy in that they make their own decisions, and we could thereby claim that we have their hypothetical consent. Though this scenario would be sufficient to constitute permissible animal games, these activities could not amount to sports because the events would be unpredictable with the animals not following the rules in the precise way that sport requires. Therefore, permissible animal sports are not possible.


Marcy Wilhelm-South

Purdue University

Publication Title Between the Species
Volume 21
Issue 1
Pages 23
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  • James Rocha (2019), "Chasing Secretariat's Consent: The Impossibility of Permissible Animal Sports,"

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  1. Animal roles
  2. Animal sports
  3. Animal welfare
  4. Ethics
  5. open access
  6. Sport animals
  1. open access