Animal Activists Should Send Money to the Racing Industry? Obscene.

This article by racing writer Art Wilson appeared in the Los Angeles Daily News on December 14. In it, he chastises PETA for not offering money/help in the wake of the wildfire that killed 46 racehorses at San Luis Rey Downs earlier this month. I followed with a letter-to-the-editor; to date, I have heard nothing from the paper. So, I have reproduced my response here. It can be found after Wilson’s diatribe.


Like the rest of you, I’ve read with great interest over the years how much the animal rights group PETA cares about the welfare of our horses.

You know the drill. They’ve picketed outside Del Mar, claiming abuse of the horses. They’ve been very vocal in their distaste for horse racing.

So like many of you, I was curious to know how much PETA chipped in to help in the aftermath of last week’s San Luis Rey tragedy.

I sent emails to a couple of executives in the industry, Mike Willman of Santa Anita and Mac McBride, who’s been at Del Mar for a good number of years, to find out the extent of PETA’s involvement in the relief efforts.

Here’s what they told me:

“I have not heard about them donating a single penny,” Willman wrote.

I can’t share with you the rest of Willman’s email because this is a family newspaper.

McBride’s reply concerning PETA’s involvement?

“Nada. Zip. Zilch.”

Turns out, PETA did reach out to the industry in the days following the fire at San Luis Rey.

Kathy Guillermo, senior vice president of PETA, emailed the Southern California News Group with details about her organization’s actions following the tragedy.

Guillermo’s email reads, in part: “I was in touch with the Stronach Group, which owns San Luis Rey, on Dec. 8 and was assured they were on their way to assess the needs. I contacted Joe Harper at Del Mar on Dec. 11. Mr. Harper told me that there had been an outpouring of volunteers — more than 300 on the first day — and thousands of dollars in donations. I was thus assured that all needs were being taken care of.”

Santa Anita and Del Mar spearheaded an effort to raise much-needed money and supplies in the wake of the San Luis Rey nightmare. They started a gofundme page that, as of 1:55 p.m. Thursday, had raised more than $637,000.

But it’s still a fact that not one penny came from PETA, the self-described champion of animal rights, and no member of the group showed up to join other volunteers.

Yes, PETA made two phone calls. But while they were “in touch” with officials from Southern California’s two major race tracks, thousands of others were busy either donating money or actually on the grounds offering physical support.

Wilson went on to cite “heart-warming stories” of the industry stepping up, then closed with this: “It’s just an example of how much these horses are loved and cared for and how people were willing to risk their lives to save them.”

The column, the editor notes, “was updated and revised to reflect PETA’s comments.” The original, I note, repeated the word “crickets” several times – “crickets,” as in all attempts to reach PETA were met with a supposedly revealing silence.

And my retort:

Regarding the recent Art Wilson article on the San Luis Rey Downs fire that killed multiple racehorses: First, as a technical matter, Horseracing Wrongs, not PETA, is the preeminent anti-racing organization in the country – having compiled and published first-of-their-kind Killed in Action Lists, organized and staged historic protests at Saratoga Race Course and beyond, etc. Second, and more to the point, the mere suggestion that we or any other not-for-profit entity should be helping to bail out the multi-billion (that’s billion with a “b”) dollar racing industry or that that same rich industry would have the chutzpah to start a gofundme page is positively ludicrous. Worse, though, is Mr. Wilson’s complete evasion of this inconvenient truth:

Yes, wildfires injure and sometimes kill wild animals, but at least those free, autonomous beings have a fighting chance. Locked-up pieces of property do not. In a crisis situation, their lives are utterly dependent on the willingness (or ability) of humans to help. The fact is, if not for horseracing those 450-odd horses would not have been at that place, at that time; if not for horseracing, 46 of them would not now be dead. In short, horseracing owns these horrific deaths, just as it owns the thousands – yes, thousands – of horses who are maimed and killed on U.S. tracks every year and the thousands more who are brutally slaughtered once their earning-windows have closed. Sure, tragedies happen, but this one happened for $2 bets.

Upon further reflection, characterizing this article as ludicrous is far too kind. Mr. Wilson’s snarky (“crickets”) indictment of groups whose only mission it is to end animal suffering and his simultaneous celebration of an industry that only exists to exploit – and, by definition, cause suffering of – animals for personal gain, with an expectation that we should help fund their recovery, is, in a word, obscene. Obscene.

Patrick Battuello
Founder, President, Horseracing Wrongs


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  1. Thank you, Patrick. I had read Wilson’s original piece, as well – he had such a good time attacking PETA, claiming their avoidance of the fire’s aftermath when they did INDEED reach out to offer help! The buffoon should have been made to offer an apology.

  2. Well said. Thank you Patrick. They certainly need to look in the mirror on this one. We clean up enough of their “messes”. Who needs to step up on this? Of course it breaks our hearts. This industry breaks horse’s hearts, and ours, on a daily basis.

    • My thoughts exactly. We love equines. We are heartbroken. Where was their plan? And yes, we do contribute through money and action. We contribute to rescues and volunteer our time. Others save them from the slaughter pipeline, rehome, retrain. Folks, please watch the Foal Patrol just announced by the Racing Assoc. Not only from birth but through their lives. Expose and Close!

  3. On second thought, not only should Wilson extend an apology to PETA, the title of his shoddy article should be changed to…

    “PETA offers its assistance to a multi-billu

  4. (damn phones…will try this again…)

    Wilson should be made to change his article’s title to –

    “PETA offers its assistance to a multi-billion dollar industry, although its own plate is overflowing with countless additional animal welfare issues. And I made a fool out of myself and should be fired.”

  5. As a former CHRB Associate Steward who was sent to investigate San Luis Rey Downs (SLRD)back in 2005.
    I want to preface this by saying something that I’ve been holding back for a long time:
    I was sent to “whitewash” the numerous complaints coming in from the upscale neighborhood surrounding this training center.
    These complaints were from animal lovers (neutral people not involved with horse racing) who regularly witnessed racehorses breaking down and suffering in the dirt for, evidently, hours.

    Once I spoke to many witnesses, and established that these complaints were substantiated there was no way that I was going to whitewash anything!
    I saw a massive organization buying up tracks for millions against the back drop of massive suffering of racehorses that could have been prevented with solutions costing under $10,000!!
    There was absolutely no excuse for this negligence.

    Putting that aside for a moment, I want the public to know this from back in 2005:
    1. SLRD’s had inadequate facilities in place to immediately get to a racehorse who broke down on the track.
    2. Frank Stronach’s wealthy Magna “Entertainment” had owned the track for 6 months and still had not replaced an inefficient, outdated, non-functional 2-horse bumper pull, with floors rotting out, horse trailer.
    3. There were many racehorses that broke down on the track, and were suffering for HOURS because the equine “ambulance” (the one described in #2 was not hooked-up to a truck).
    4. When one of the trainers actually got his truck to fit the hitch which was, evidently, not a standard 2″, they couldn’t load the horse onto it because of the broken floor boards.
    5. I was told this by witnesses who were outraged and wouldn’t permit me to use their names so I wrote down what I was told and summarized it into a report.
    6. Additionally, there was NO EMERGENCY EVACUATION PROTOCOL in place whatsoever!! I also wrote this down in my report because I was told that this area was vulnerable to earthquakes and to wildfires! HELLO!!
    7. The track was UNSAFE and they knew it. The surface had complete wave-like patterns (uneven)and those were the spots where the racehorses were breaking down.
    8. This was another upgrade promised upon purchase, but was not fulfilled at the time I was there.

    Of course I’m afraid to write this down because the tentacles of the powerful Stronach network reaches far, and especially reaches here in Canada, as many former horse trainers know.
    However, whatever your opinion is of this organization, mine is they were totally NEGLIGENT and I can’t understand why neither the CHRB or anybody didn’t further my investigation and demand that they respond.
    So the only conclusion that seems reasonable is that the CHRB is in collusion with this organization or any organization who upholds the ongoing pain, and suffering of racehorses for profit.

    There have been numerous deaths on Magna owned property for years, and no formal investigations have ever been conducted even mysterious deaths in the stalls are not investigated.

    I had information to the “deal” that the Stronach organization organized with various politicians in California, and I was SHOCKED at how they knelt down to their demands.
    One thing that stood out for me is the grandiose binding legal contracts that Magna offered the California government to spend millions updating the unsanitary housing facilities in the stable area at Santa Anita and this training track.
    There were Mexican children living in these horrific conditions at the time, but they were from undocumented workers for the most part so they didn’t say anything – no voice just like the racehorses.
    Anyways, Stronach, his bevy of lawyers, and his Magna “Entertainment’ made massive promises to improve the living conditions to create a euphoria, so to speak, in California.
    The government bowed down eliminating millions in taxes and so much more.
    It’s public information if anybody cares to dig deep into these contracts, but they could have been altered for all I know.

    To this day, I don’t know what upgrades have been completed, if anything, but at that time nothing was done and the racehorses continued to pay the price as they did burning to a crisp confined in their stalls at SLRD’s.

    Art Wilson, where was YOUR horse trailer, where was all of the horse trailers??
    There should have been horse vans IMMEDIATELY ordered to the training center.
    I don’t think there was.
    It seems clear that the EMERGENCY EVACUATION PROCEDURES that I recommended back in 2005 was NEVER put into place because if there was those racehorses could have been saved!
    Art, I have 3 OTTB’s that I’ve rescued how about you send me a donation to take care of these racehorses who were discarded like trash by this industry.
    You need to go ask the supporters and apologists where they were, and I can tell you that this will not go away.
    We will continue to expose this business for what it is, and you will continue to blab at the mouth for possibly being paid to do so or get some benefits from the horse racing industry.
    It seems obvious to me that you are not an investigative journalist, but possibly paid for your propaganda.
    I suggest you visit the kill auctions or donate to the aftercare programs that are over flowing with unwanted OTTB’s.
    You would serve the racehorses much better instead of defending this VILE business.

    To all the apologists who maim and/or kill racehorses on a daily basis:
    where are YOU ALL when racehorses are standing at kill auctions?
    Nowhere to be found for the most part.

    WHERE is the BILLIONS in profits from the sales auction houses, and from wagering companies??
    Nowhere to be found when thousands of racehorses are sent to the slaughterhouse every single year.

    I can bet that the California politicians, whose palms might be greased by the exploitation of racehorses, will ensure that Stronach and his cohorts get off scott-free.

    This business is nothing but a corruption pit, cruelty circus, and death camp for racehorses.

  6. As the famous Australian racehorse trainer, Bart Cummings, once stated, regarding activists speaking up for the racehorses “they have their hearts in the right place”.
    Great work, Patrick!

    • Rose, Horseracing Wrongs is the ONLY organization to take on horseracing directly. We are the only organization with the mission to end it (with no measure of reform to satisfy or compromise). We are the only organization that uncovers the facts, collects statistics and reports up-to-date information on the cruelty and death of this industry. We are the only organization that has organized record-breaking protests at Saratoga Race Course. We, at Horseracing Wrongs, recently obtained our 501c3 status to 100% support local advocacy by empowering activists to organize their own protests at racetracks in their communities, and we are currently doing so in five states.

      PETA’s stance on horseracing is not consistent with ending the industry. They support the Horseracing Integrety Act, which is a public relations scheme for the industry which has the power to make the gambling and viewing public feel better about this cruel industry when, in fact, the killing and slaughter numbers will not be effected by it. Furthermore, PETA or any animal rights organization that fights for the end of animal cruelty and exploitation should not reach out to financially help any industry that they are trying to close, especially a multi-billion dollar one. Not for public relations accolades or otherwise.

    • I was thinking in terms of older organizations with many resources such as the HSUS and the ASPCA. However, back in the 80’s, the ASPCA did bring animal cruelty charges against David Jacobson for his treatment of his horse, Huggable Tom. I have not heard of any direct involvement since.

      I’m very grateful for what Horseracing Wrongs is doing. Raising public consciousness is so important. Racing no longer has it all their way. The ugly truth of how the business operates and how the horses suffer is being exposed. The horses now have a “voice”.

      Thank you, Patrick and Nicole.

  7. Thank you for this informative response…In Florida Hurricane Irma was bearing down on us and horses were allowed to stay on the grounds at Gulfstream Park in. a storm surge flood area…Obviously no Hurricane evacuation plans in place…Shameful….

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