Pennsylvania – End the Subsidies, End the Cruelty, End the Killing

The following is being sent to every Pennsylvania legislator in the newly-convened 2019 Pennsylvania General Assembly. Please read and share, and also please consider contacting members on your own. Thank you.

I am writing today in the hope that you might reconsider the subsidies being paid to your state’s horseracing industry. I am arguing this on two levels: First, propping up individual industries runs counter to America’s free-market principles. Myriad trades have come and gone in our nation’s history (horse-and-buggy), with winners and losers determined by the merits of, and relative demand for, one’s goods and services. It should not be in government’s purview to keep unwanted – as decided by the market – businesses afloat. To that, here are some pertinent facts:

Horseracing is clearly in decline: Since 2000, U.S. Racing has suffered a net loss of 34 tracks; all other metrics – racedays, races, “fields,” “foal crop,” and, yes, attendance and handle – are also down. The public is speaking – unequivocally – with its wallet.

With the ubiquity of stand-alone casinos and state lotteries (and soon, all-sports betting), Racing has cried foul, claiming that these new businesses are somehow unfair to them. In fact, prior to the advent of lottery products, Horseracing enjoyed a virtual monopoly – for decades – on legal gambling. Now that was unfair.

In Pennsylvania, according to a 2017 report, the racing industry has received $2.6 billion in corporate welfare over the past decade – $239 million in ’17 alone. Referring to this, The Philadelphia Inquirer, in an editorial, wrote, “If multiple billions can’t turn around an industry, isn’t it time we asked how much longer we’re willing to try before altering the arrangement?” (see also, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette editorial)

Far more important, however, is the moral aspect to all this. In short, horseracing kills horses – lots of them. Through my seminal FOIA reporting, I have determined that upward of 2,000 horses are killed racing or training on U.S. tracks every year – easily six per day; to date, I have documented over 5,000 confirmed kills on my website – cardiovascular collapse, pulmonary hemorrhage, blunt-force head trauma; shattered limbs, ruptured ligaments, broken necks, crushed spines.

In addition, likely just as many die from what the industry craftily calls “non-racing causes” – colic, laminitis, “found dead in stall.” In truth, however, these horses are no less casualties than the ones who snap legs on raceday. And perhaps worst of all, the vast majority of “retired” racehorses end up brutally and violently slaughtered when deemed no longer profitable – some 20,000 or more annually. In a word, carnage.

But it’s even worse. While active, life for the typical racehorse is mean and cruel:

From birth, racehorses are pieces of property – chattel. They are bought, sold, traded, and dumped whenever and however their people decide – a stressful, tenuous existence that in and of itself causes pain and suffering: According to the Pennsylvania 2016 FOIA documents, to date the most detailed I have received, virtually every one of the dead horses died with ulcers, most “extensive to severe.”

Racehorses are kept locked in tiny stalls for over 23 hours a day, making a heartrending mockery of the industry claim that horses are “born to run, love to run.”

Racehorses are kept utterly isolated from their peers – an extra layer of cruelty for naturally social, herd-oriented animals.

Racehorses are (obviously) nonconsensually drugged and doped – incessantly injected with myriad performance-enhancing, injury-masking, and pain-numbing chemicals.

Racehorses are utterly controlled and subjugated for the entire length of their “careers.” Indeed, the “race” itself can only be effected through force: nose chains, mouth bits, and, of course, perched humans wielding whips.

In summary, not only is your state diverting much-needed funding for education and other public-good projects to a dying industry, but, in a cruel twist, taxpayers, the vast majority of whom have zero interest in horseracing, are subsidizing unconscionable cruelty and wholesale killing. While we would love to see a day when horseracing is banned (like dogracing), for now we are simply asking that the market be allowed to do what it is designed to do. Please do not fall prey to their talk of lost jobs and economic havoc. Horseracing, unlike, perhaps, some other industries (agriculture, banking), is not too big or essential to fail. And if allowed, failure will bring the added benefit of collective moral advancement, as countless horses will henceforth be spared lives of immense suffering and horrible deaths. Thank you.

Patrick Battuello, Founder and President, Horseracing Wrongs

19 Comments

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    • If only the public knew how much of their hard earned money is being wasted on this – while millionaires snatch up horses to breed and race for millions of dollars, earn millions of dollars in stakes purses, and pay so little of it back to support the horses they break and to support local infrastructures. While the rest of us toil on to make meager ends meet, and pay into their whims, We shoud have a say as to whether we want that or not.

  1. Patrick thank-you for your meticulous details that clearly show this dying business and the horrific truth behind the dying.
    I would like to add the following:
    CORRUPTION – the corruption is deep and well-documented, but it’s the racehorses and the taxpayer who pay the price for these “Whitey Bulger style” operations.
    ENVIRONMENTAL – me and a small group of people have acquired facts about this horse racing industry and the extensive contribution to the greenhouse gas emissions including the monopolization of precious resources in high urban areas including water.
    I can tell you that the facts are dismal and our current state of the planet, and environment can’t afford this luxury anymore.
    While other businesses are either legislated and/or fined and/or doing their part to prevent or slow down environmental destruction the facts seem to show an industry that has never been held accountable like others and they should be fined from here to eternity for their environment destruction.
    Folks, we are talking metric TONS of manure from racehorses who are bred to run in circles for this industry and that’s just for starters.
    Historically, it has never been an issue because the tracks were located in rural areas, but they are now surrounded by residential neighborhoods, families, and children who are being subjected to their environmental mess.
    They seem to be handed a FREE ticket for the use of water in most racing jurisdictions which is in the millions while many parts of the USA have drought and don’t even have enough water to grow vegetables for heavens sake.
    Yet, every single homeowner is billed and pays for the use of their water.
    Of course the slaughterhouse, where most end up, is an environmental catastrophe.
    This business is not only vile, but it’s an antiquated business model whose time has come to end, shut it down, stop the dying, the maiming, the killing, and the pollution.
    We know that the racehorses pay the ultimate price for their stupid bets, but we are all paying the price for a small elite group of people that are hell bent on keeping this disaster going,

  2. Dear Patrick. I have always loved horses. I never knew the dark side of racing, until I started reading your site. Everyone should know! We have to reach the children, so they know the lies from the beginning. Thank you so very much for what you are doing. Please please please continue. I made a small donation. Wish I had more to give. Senior on very limited income. God bless you.

  3. Perfectly written. This barbaric and cruel industry must come to an end! Please let us know how your letter is received.

  4. Name me one other industry in pa that is being subsidized by our state government. Let the people vote, why is it everytime the racehorse development fund is going to be raided is it shut down almost immediately? I encourage all of pas leaders to view the necropsy reports see the carnage firsthand and reconsile why are we continuing to support an industry the will cheat, drug, cripple, and kill a helpless horse, there is nothing in this industry statewide to ensure the health and wellbeing of the horses competing pa does not even follow their own written rules, with all the bad stories that have came out over the years pa is still the biggest cesspool of corruption wheres the justice?

  5. Bravo, Patrick! So well written and on point, as always. I read every one of your emails/posts, and so appreciate your hard and dedicated work. I am hoping one day California, where I live, has the guts to end the horror. Thank you so much.

  6. Horseshoe Valley Equine Center LLC has a horse they bred entered today at parx, after the fbi investigation and her license being revoked how is this allowed and accepted???? And also still licensed by the aaep??? You brag about the purse structure being the best in the country along with the owner breeder awards,boast about the jobs and economic revenue but yet still have the racing and non racing world thinking and knowing this is the most corrupt circut in the nation wonder why nobody supports this game, because it is not about the horses and we all know it. The standardbred corticosteroid steriod issue, no medication shall be permitted in 2yr olds, beatties former top owner now a trainer, murray rojas selling horses, her husband eduardo still permitted a license after the commission dropped the ball and judge ruled it unconstitutional,david wells transports horses now, the vets the pled out still are licensed to practice how is this all still allowed?

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