Friday night, the Los Angeles Times ran this headline in its sports section:
“Santa Anita breathes a sigh of relief after no horses die on first day back”
The article then went on to quote some racetrack patrons:
“I’m holding my breath.”
“Everyone is worried about the horses. All I’m thinking is, if anything untoward happens today…”
The article continued: “The race ends clean, all seven horses crossing the finish line, and only then is there audible applause from the crowd… No horse died. ‘OK,’ said racegoer Frank Reynoso, taking a deep breath. ‘That’s one.’ But because there was no clear reason for the deaths [not true – it is horseracing itself], there could be no clear answers. That’s why so many people showed up at the track Friday with nerves jangling and fingers crossed. For now, there is relief. In eight races, there were no fatalities, which brought a giant collective sigh.”
Leaving aside for a moment that something “untoward” – a euphemism if ever there was one – did happen just two days later (the 23rd “untoward” thing on the Santa Anita track since New Year’s), what do the above say about a day at the races? If, in the course of being entertained by captive animals, you are “holding your breath” that none will die, if your “nerves are jangled” and “fingers crossed,” if all is tense while awaiting the finish and safe returns anxiously counted, perhaps, just perhaps, it’s time to re-think your participation in and support of that product.
More to that point: The aforementioned fan Reynoso added, “We’re saddened by everything that has happened…it’s been hard to see. But they’re going to race whether we’re here or not, and we love it here, so we’re coming.” To which I reply:
To those who wager on horseracing, we implore you to reconsider. And ultimately, you hold all the cards – no more bets, no more races; no more races, no more kills. And – no more abusing unformed bodies; no more extreme, relentless confinement; no more whipping; no more drugging and doping; no more buying and selling and trading and dumping. No more auctions, no more kill-buyers, no more transport trucks, no more abattoirs. No more maiming, destroying; pain, suffering. No more.
In a landscape that abounds with other gambling options – casinos, lotteries, real sports involving autonomous human beings – hasn’t the time at long last arrived to let the racing-horse be? You, the bettor, have within the capacity for mercy. We ask only that you exercise it. Please. For the horses.
The article, by the way, is also noteworthy for this:
“The crowd was reminded of the trouble before even entering the track, as several dozen protesters stood on a grassy area outside the front gate waving signs and chanting. ‘Horse racing needs to be abolished,’ said Heather Hamza, leading what she called a group of concerned citizens backed by the group known as Horseracing Wrongs. ‘The world is watching this track. Every horse that is killed here will make big headlines. We need to be part of those headlines because we’re telling them to stop it.'” Thank you, Heather, and to all who came and stood for the voiceless.