Horse races (Illustrative)
Horse races (Illustrative)Flash90

Minister of Pensioner Affairs MK Uri Orbach (Bayit Yehudi/Jewish Home) attacked a recent campaign by Israeli betting pool company Toto to encourage horse-betting in a statement made last night (Thursday) on his Facebook page.

"Horse racing is a repellant 'sport' based on the needless abuse of animals," Orbach wrote, urging to stop a practice which is cruel to animals "simply for entertainment and easy money." 

Israeli law regulates sports betting, but does not criminalize the practice, as is common in most European Union countries. The popularity of the pastime may have made the cultural jump from the United Kingdom to Israel during the British occupation of mandate Palestine, and remains a popular hobby today. 

Orbach holds that the pastime is considered a case of one offense leading to another, as per a principle in Jewish law that one cannot do something that will cause himself, or someone else, to break the law via his own actions. "Well-respected circuses, at least, have stopped using animals [in their acts], but to frantically spur horses to gallop faster - why is that more permissible?" the MK asks.

Orbach laments that the reason, partially, has to do with the labeling of the sport as 'high culture'. He calls on Toto, which is run by the Israeli Sports Betting Association, to stop using the sport as a mainstay of their most recent advertising campaign, asking "what will be next - dog fights?"

Orbach's comments follow efforts by Meretz chairwoman MK Zahava Gal-On and Shas MK David Azoulay to appeal to the Ministry of Culture to end the equestrian racing ad campaign, stating that the 'sport' "causes irreversible damage and terrible pain to race horses. It doesn't matter whether the race is being held in Israel or abroad - to the horses, the suffering is endless." They also cited the high rates of premature death among race horses, concluding that driving them to death just for sporting purposes "is the height of absolute cruelty."