PETA urges IOC to modernise and drop equine events from Games

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Tokyo 2020 Olympics - Modern Pentathlon - Women's Riding - Tokyo Stadium - Tokyo, Japan - August 6, 2021. Annika Schleu of Germany in action REUTERS/Ivan Alvarado

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Nov 5 (Reuters) - The International Olympic Committee (IOC) must recognise that immediate change is needed and should drop equine competitions from future Olympic Games, animal advocacy group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) said on Friday.

PETA, which made a similar request in August during the Tokyo Games after acts of cruelty to horses, said it would step up its pressure by asking supporters to contact the IOC directly and urge it to "modernise."

"We think this is a body that brings about change. The Olympic Games have evolved over the years. Croquet was once part of the competition," PETA senior vice president Kathy Guillermo told Reuters via email.

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"But values change and now is the time for the IOC to recognise that ... Our pressure is on the IOC. We wrote to it in August urging it to eliminate all equine events from the Games."

Equestrian events in the Olympics feature dressage, eventing and jumping disciplines.

The IOC did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Germany's modern pentathlon coach Kim Raisner hit Annika Schleu's horse, Saint Boy, at the Tokyo Games when it refused to jump a fence and the incident drew widespread criticism.

In response to the outrage and as part of efforts to embrace change, modern pentathlon's governing body, the International Modern Pentathlon Union (UIPM) said on Thursday it would drop horse riding in the event from the 2028 Games in Los Angeles. read more

Modern pentathlon has been an Olympic sport since 1912 featuring five events - fencing, swimming, equestrian show jumping, pistol shooting and cross-country running.

UIPM is set to begin a consultation process soon to find a suitable replacement for riding.

FULLY COMMITTED

The International Equestrian Federation (FEI) said it was "fully committed" to the responsible use of horses in sport.

"But the incident during the show jumping competition in modern pentathlon at the Tokyo Games unfortunately impacted the social acceptance of horse sport as a whole," an FEI spokesperson said in a statement to Reuters.

"Equestrian sport is based on the unique relationship between an athlete and a horse that is honed over many years, and it is this bond and mutual trust which allows the partnership to shine.

"As modern pentathlon athletes do not have the opportunity to create this rapport with their horse in the riding phase of their sport, it sadly led to some unedifying scenes in Tokyo."

Guillermo said Raisner's act in Tokyo was not an isolated incident.

"In addition to the pentathlon scandal, Jet Set, ridden by Swiss Robin Godel, appeared to be injured in the middle of a cross-country course during Olympic competition," she added.

"Veterinarians diagnosed the injury as an irreparable ligament rupture in one of his legs and he was euthanised. read more

Guillermo also highlighted another incident during the Tokyo Games show jumping event in which blood poured from Kilkenny's nose as the horse finished the course.

"Not even one horse should suffer or die for a gold medal," she added.

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Reporting by Shrivathsa Sridhar in Bengaluru; Editing by Ken Ferris

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