Racing Insider: “Overwhelming Number of [Thoroughbreds] Are Slaughtered”

As mentioned previously, the best indictments of this industry often come from within. Take slaughter, for instance. While the racing people typically (and understandably) avoid this issue like the plague, occasionally some honesty surfaces.

In a recent HorseRaceInsider article, long-time industry writer and handicapper Mark Berner takes Racing to task for its “inability or unwillingness to deal openly with the issue of horse slaughter.” While I’m quite certain that Berner’s real worry (as evidenced by the article’s title) is that slaughter is killing the “sport” he so dearly loves, he does offer some seemingly genuine words of outrage:

“If a breeder elects to bring a horse into the world, it is their responsibility to make sure that horse is cared for until its natural death. It is not simply the cost of doing business; it is about doing what’s humane and morally correct.”

But it’s the stark admissions that caught my eye. Two statements in particular:

“A sport that once was the pastime of the billionaire class has devolved over time into a sport in which an overwhelming number of its athletes are slaughtered…”

Then: “Since the Thoroughbred industry has not significantly corrected this situation, the same percentages – 20% of all horses sent to slaughter from the US are Thoroughbreds – are safely assumed to be correct present day.”

And to think that all this time I’ve been citing the “only” 19% found in this seminal study. So let’s break this down. According to the Equine Welfare Alliance, 114,000 American horses were sent to slaughter in 2016. 20% of 114,000 is almost 23,000. For that same year, the Jockey Club estimates the “foal crop” – newly registered Thoroughbreds – at 21,000. That would be an over 1:1 ratio of those exiting-via-slaughter to those coming in. Obviously, not all retired (or never-made-the-cut) Thoroughbreds end up bled-out and butchered. But even when accounting for some slight industry contraction each year, the numbers make it abundantly clear that at the very least most – Berner’s “overwhelming number” – eventually (because some will have an intervening round of exploitation – the so-called second career) do.

Case closed, again.

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  1. Slaughter: the statistics speak for themselves.
    However, we do know that the statistics are minimum at best because they don’t take into account racehorses who are buried on private facilities, tattoo’s that are intentionally mutilated, and/or fraudulent papers.
    Most of these practices are conducted to hide and protect the connections of the horse, to obliterate doping records, and it’s very much in practice here in Ontario – we know that.
    In these instances, racehorses/thoroughbreds are categorized into the general horse population slaughterhouse statistics.
    This is estimated to be about 10% of statistics, which would bring it up to about 30% of horses slaughtered are racehorses specifically bred, and subsequently dumped by this industry.
    Anytime a microchip program is mentioned members of this industry vehemently oppose it because that would mean accountability, and we do know that “secrets” and intentionally hiding facts is a large part of horse racing business practices.
    However, theOntario/ Canadian government is also complacent in accountability because they send dope tainted racehorse meat (common dope in racehorses include Bute, Lasix, Banomine and they are all not fit for human consumption) to Europe, and they gain billions in slaughterhouse profits.
    They also have not supported a microchip program for racehorses, but this should be implemented for all livestock that is food-bound for obvious reasons.
    Nevertheless, it’s abundantly clear that the people/government who make millions off of racehorses are determined to fill their coffers, and wallets at the expense of the racehorses.
    So please don’t patronize this business because you are also supporting the horrific suffering, and evil behind it.

  2. Regarding racehorse DUMPING – sending them to auction, or direct to kill, or the CONSTANT social media listings of racehorses needing homes “ASAP because their stalls are needed”, or the comments of racing insiders and supporters acknowledging they need to claim and then find homes for the “war horses” that are still racing but have fallen to the “cheap” claiming races – WHERE ARE ALL OF THOSE GOOD PEOPLE IN RACING? Clearly, if the majority in racing were those “good people” and the “bad apples” were the minority, there wouldn’t be so many TB’s still racing that apologists feel shouldn’t be, there would be homes for all of those “war horses” (with racing’s “good folks”!), and we wouldn’t see the daily posts of TB’s crammed into auction and kills pens – their racing plates still intact – where the posters are BEGGING for their salvation.

    The facts about this industry are right in front of us – one only needs to choose to see them.

    • Indeed the facts are there to see, but it’s so disturbing that the people on the front line of saving these dumped racehorses STILL support horse racing!!!
      The only stance to take is to end this business, and that will end all the vileness that happens in stable areas and on racetracks every day.

    • It seems the self proclaimed “good people” in racing “rescue” or do right by a horse here and there, Thus they delude and absolve themselves from the atrocities of this business. However, even those that wil help a horse occasionally are very, very few in racing.
      Most meaningful help for any of these unfortunate horses comes from people outside racing that dig into their pockets to provide a chance for these doomed animals. But even that is woefully insufficient.
      The bottom line is this corrupt and drug saturated business uses horses like inanimate objects to be discarded when not useful.
      Laws are broken and the laws of human decency are nonexistent.
      There is no accountability and nobody is willing to hold this lucrative business accountable no matter how corrupt and cruel because it is too powerful and too rich..

  3. 25 yearlings bred by Barton Thoroughbreds were just discovered in the horrific Kaufman Kill Pen in Texas. It’s certainly not surprising though – especially when one of the Barton’s (just lauded in a recent racing rag article) says things like the following…

    Kate Barton: “I get as much joy to watch horses we bred and sold win as I do when we own them. If you sold a horse for decent money and they’re out there winning races and you have the factory – the mare – still, I think everyone wins.” The FACTORY.

    And Barton again: “I have to keep it a lot less emotional with horses. I love them and I think they are the most beautiful creatures ever, but it’s a numbers game and you have to make business decisions.”

    Any surprise that 25 Barton-bred yearlings were in a KILL PEN? Numbers game. Business decisions. Where is all of that “family love” we always hear about?

    And FYI, the 25 yearlings were “repurchased” by BT after being notified of their dangerous predicament. Of course, they are blameless – they have bills of sales – it’s the OTHER guy’s fault who “is failing to take any responsibility in the matter.” But the Bartons? – they’ve now got more dumping to do. From their statement regarding their yearlings they can’t seem to rid themselves of: “we will look for rehoming possibilities through reliable thoroughbred aftercare programs.” So fill up the too-few openings in the too-few aftercare programs with all of the little “factories” you put on this earth, Kate Barton and family. And let someone else support them for the next 30 years.

    • Ah… the numbers breeders! The only thing they are interested in is how much $ they can fool people out of out of their wallets! We know of several of that type. They disgust us as they have no feeling for the horses and see them strictly as all business / marketing hype decisions. We feel for each horse and every horse in their barns. All tax incentives should be eliminated as well as the accelerated tax depreciation schedules for owners / breeders. Horses are very sensitive living animals just like people.They are not factory machinery or inventory!

  4. Joy, I just read the article. Kate Barton is being praised for being “beautiful”. Just goes to show, maybe good to look at on the outside but rotten on the inside.
    And how do they deem 26 YEARLINGS undesirable and only worthy of slaughter?? What’s their criteria? And where were all the new “IAmHorseracing” hyped people to rally against these “business” practices? Or to save these 26 babies? Oh wait. That’s right -it’s ok to dump the thoroughbreds. That’s what happens to the majority in one form or another.

  5. Thanks Joy for this information.
    The continuous breeding of racehorses to feed the greed/egos/races of this vile business is going on all over the place. Unfortunately, this is only 1 farm that we know of, but there are plenty more, and the fact that the state governments furnish this business with taxpayers money to breed is egregious.
    Another example that exemplifies this is Racing Hall of (SH)ame trainer Steve Assmusen, in partnership with his father, dumped “royally-bred” pregnant broodmares at a kill auction in Texas while they were raking in millions.
    Then there are a percentage of foals born with permanent deformities due to their never ending quest for the “perfect” horse by intense cross-breeding of pedigrees.
    These are the rejects of the breeding farms that are also dumped at kill auctions or often humanely euthanized.

  6. I would appreciate any links to proof California racehorses have ended up in slaughterhouses. As one of the original Santa anita protesters i would very much like to present or have presented those facts at the next chrb meeting at del mar. At least the facts would be in the record of the meeting and the board could no longer call into question the truth about California racehorses. Does anyone have something concrete regarding California? Please let me know. Thank you so much

    • Melodie, it is estimated that 10,000 to 12,000 TBs go to slaughter on an annual basis. I personally feel that number is too low, but, even if those numbers are accurate, they tell us that 50% of the foal crop will eventually end up on the slaughterhouse floor.

      The only way to provide irrefutable evidence as to which TBs have gone to slaughter, as well as the number of TBs, would be to travel to the slaughterhouse and flip the lips on the severed heads in order to read the tattoos. Quite a few years ago, I got into a heated discussion with Alex Brown, a racing supporter. When I mentioned a horse going to slaughter, he insisted that I use the word “allegedly” because the evidence is anecdotal (think Ferdinand). No one flipped Ferdinand’s lip in the slaughterhouse to confirm that it was indeed him. Therefore, the evidence is anecdotal.

  7. This is so sad and disturbing to read! These horses don’t deserve this! Close down all race tracks and save these beautiful horses from slaughter! They deserve to live free with loving care once they retire!

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