Welfare and Horse Diving: a final word

As you may have read, or seen on my facebook page, the proposed horse diving act in New Jersey has been cancelled (you can read the CBS article here).

A diving girl and her horse after a successful dive
A friend and I chose to read Sonora Carver's book, A Girl and Five Brave Horses as an informal horse book club book.  We love horses, and with the recent proposed revival of horse diving in New Jersey, we thought it would be an insightful read.
As you may recall, Sonora Carver was the young woman featured in the movie Wild Hearts Can't be Broken, who suffered from detached retinas in an unfortunate diving accident.

In my last post on the topic, I left open the question whether training horses to dive from 40 feet high is inhumane or not.  As with most equine welfare issues, opinions are polarized.  
On one side, diving horses may not be much different than other extreme horse sports, and on the other side, diving may not be considered sport and is mere recklessness for the sake of "awe factor," with the horse's well-being paying the price.

I think every true horseman would agree that horse welfare doesn't require that a horse sit in a pasture, without a job, to protect him from potential work-induced injuries.
But how much we ask a horse to do beyond basic arena work can enter a grey zone.
Then I read this article on The Horse by Midge Leitch, which in summary asserted:

"Both science and society have a role in deciding what constitutes an appropriate level of animal welfare and the appropriate use of the horse. While science can determine what type or degree of animal welfare risk exists under specific circumstances, it cannot determine what type or degree of risk is acceptable--that is the question society answers."

I think for the most part the author hit the nail on the head (though it gives rise to the pedantic questions of my college philosophy class: Who is this "society?"  Is the esoteric concept of society truly just a mere myth?)

From a scientific, veterinarian standpoint horses may not be physically injured by diving.
And according to Carter's book, from the standpoint of experienced divers, only horses that enjoy diving and the showmanship involved are used for the diving acts.
But according to Leitch's article, the appropriateness of horse diving is determined by society's moral compass.


This topic is relevant because the courts often use "public policy" as the reasoning to a judicial opinion.  There are some established public policies, such as 'for the general welfare,' 'best interest of the child,' to 'facilitate interstate relationships,' etc., but some policies are more elusive; public policy is largely subjective, and is typically a powerful argument.
While the New Jersey steel pier opted to withdraw the horse diving act without litigation, the general outcry against horse diving would very possibly be considered 'as against public policy.'