A message from our friends at American based Horse Racing Wrongs.
Horseracing Wrongs is a non-profit dedicated to eradicating horseracing in the United States. Indeed, we are the only organization in the country that is clearly and consistently working toward that end.
For far too long, horseracing has been given cover under the banner of sport – “The Sport of Kings” – when, in fact, stripped to its core, horseracing is nothing but an archaic, largely nonviable gambling business that exploits, abuses, and kills sentient beings, inherently. In other words, it cannot be fixed or reformed; in other words, it is wrong from the start. To be more specific:
Horseracing is unremitting confinement and isolation: The typical racehorse is kept locked – alone – in a tiny 12×12 stall for over 23 hours a day, making a mockery of the industry claim that horses are born to run, love to run, and a cruelty all the worse for being inflicted upon naturally social, herd-oriented animals like horses.
Horseracing is absolute control and utter subjugation – lip tattoos, nose chains, tongue ties, eye blinkers, mouth bits, and, of course, whips.
Horseracing is commodification: In the eyes of the law, racehorses are literal chattel, things to be bought, sold, traded, and dumped whenever and however their people decide. To make matters worse, they are not even afforded the protections, woefully inadequate as most are, of animal-cruelty statutes, meaning a trainer or owner can grind his horse into the ground – yes, even to death – with virtual impunity. What’s more, the average racehorse will change hands several times over the course of his “career,” adding anxiety and stress to an already anxious and stressful existence.
Horseracing is negation: Most all the horse’s natural instincts and desires are thwarted, creating an emotional and mental suffering brought home with crystal clarity in the stereotypies or vices commonly seen in confined racehorses – cribbing, weaving, bobbing, pacing, kicking – even self-mutilation. Says world-renowned equine behaviorist Nick Dodman: “Racehorses, with long periods of confinement and isolation, exhibit an unusually high prevalence of stereotypies. The suffering can be described by referencing the suffering of people in solitary confinement. A recently released man who had spent years in solitary said he sometimes felt anxiety, paranoia, panic, hallucinations etc. The only way he could help suppress the dysphoria was to walk back and forth in his cell until the line he walked was soaked in his sweat.”
And, of course, horseracing is killing: Horseracing Wrongs, primarily through our unprecedented FOIA reporting, has documented over 5,000 confirmed kills on U.S. tracks since 2014 – names, dates, locations. We estimate that over 2,000 horses are killed racing or training across America every year. Over 2,000. Imagine that.
And just to be clear, death on the track is neither clean nor placid: It’s cardiovascular collapse, pulmonary hemorrhage, blunt-force head trauma; it’s broken necks, crushed spines, ruptured ligaments, and shattered legs, occasionally shattered so severely that the limb remains attached to the rest of the body by skin or tendons only.
But that number – 2,000 – staggering though it is, tells but a part of the story. Each year, hundreds more active, mostly-still-in-puberty racehorses die back in their stalls from things like colic, laminitis, infection, or are simply “found dead” in the morning.
Then, too, slaughter. While the industry desperately tries to downplay the extent of the problem, cunningly flashing its zero-tolerance policies and aftercare initiatives in defense, the prevailing wisdom – backed by two scientific studies – is that the vast majority of spent or simply no-longer-wanted racehorses are brutally and violently bled-out and butchered in Canadian and Mexican slaughterhouses – over 15,000 Thoroughbreds alone each year. In short, the American horseracing industry is engaged in wholesale carnage. Not hyperbole – carnage.
Truth is, Horseracing is already in decline, and has been for some time: Since 2000, the U.S. industry has suffered a net loss of 35 tracks; all other metrics – racedays, races, field sizes, “foal crop,” and, yes, attendance and handle – are also down. Moreover, a majority of tracks are being wholly propped up by subsidies – corporate welfare. It is unfair and horses continue to suffer (and die) for it.
But beyond the economic realities, sensibilities toward animal exploitation, most especially regarding entertainment, are rapidly changing. In just the past few years:
– SeaWorld, in the wake of outrage over the film Blackfish, has ended the captive-breeding of orcas and remains in a precipitous decline.
– Ringling Bros., after 146 years of animal abuse, has closed its doors for good.
– Both New York and Illinois have outlawed the use of elephants for entertainment.
– The National Aquarium will release all of its remaining captive-dolphins to a seaside sanctuary by 2020.
– Multiple cities, including Pittsburgh, San Francisco, Pasadena, Fort Wayne, and St. Petersburg, have banned the rodeo.
– And just this past November, Floridians voted overwhelmingly – by over 2:1 – to outlaw greyhound racing in that state by the end of next year, a monumental win for animals that will in one fell swoop shutter 11 of the nation’s final 17 tracks – leaving dogracing in America all but dead.
So the question becomes, why should horseracing be exempt? In a landscape that abounds with other gambling (and entertainment) options – casinos, lotteries, real sports involving autonomous human beings – hasn’t the time at long last arrived to stop wagering on the backs of suffering – and dying – animals?
End the cruelty. End the killing. End horseracing.
– Patrick Battuello
Cover Image Source: Sports Illustrated