This week we were invited to the 3rd Annual Cameltonian and Ostrich Derby, taking place at the Meadowlands on June 21st. Our inbox trumpeted: "Come watch as these exotic animals race down the track during live harness racing night!" This is a real thing and not some inspiration for a Photoshop contest.
The animals come from promoter Joe Henrick's farm in Kansas where "he raises, stables and trains the animals," but a rep for the event was unable to comment on how the animals are trained for race days. As for who is riding them, the jockeys are typically horse racing jockeys, however, at the Meadowlands event Hendrick's staff will play that role.
Rachel Ryan, the Marketing Manager at Meadowlands, told us that the event has been held "at fairs and racetracks around the country, however only a few tracks along the East coast have staged these exhibitions." But whyyyyyy? Because it's "fun," we were told. For humans... the ostriches and camels, however, were unavailable to comment on how they feel about the humans riding on their backs for "fun."
Speaking on their behalf is PETA—Delcianna Winders, their Deputy General Counsel of Captive Animal Law Enforcement, told us, "Animals exploited in traveling acts experience perpetual anxiety, physical discomfort, and frustration as their instinctual needs are thwarted and they are deprived of everything that is natural and important to them. Mounted by jockeys and subjected to rough handling amid screaming crowds, they are forced to rush frantically around a track, which is as dangerous as it is cruel, with the risk of serious injury ever present. And there is no respite as they are hauled from event to event, enduring the ordeal repeatedly."