As many of you I’m sure know, with the (finally) permanent closing of Suffolk Downs at the end of June, the Suffolk people are trying mightily to pick up at the currently-dormant Great Barrington Fairgrounds next year. And the fight is on. Engaging, I wrote a letter-to-the-editor of The Berkshire Eagle; it was published Tuesday and for that, I am grateful. However, it was slightly altered in wording and significantly altered in facts – all without checking with me first. Here is the letter as it ran:
To the editor:
Regarding the Aug. 11 article “Suffolk Downs likely ‘grandfathered’ at Great Barrington Fairgrounds, but questions remain,” I must object to the characterization of racehorse death as “occasional.” As one of the nation’s foremost experts on racehorse deaths, I can state unequivocally that nothing could be further from the truth.
Through our unprecedented Freedom of Information Act reporting, Horseracing Wrongs has documented — with names, dates and locations — more than 5,000 confirmed deaths on U.S. tracks, just since 2014. We estimate that more than 2,000 horses die while racing or training across America every year. In Suffolk Downs’ last year of regular racing — a five-month period in 2014 — 11 racehorses lost their lives. In addition, hundreds more nationwide die back in their stalls from conditions like colic or laminitis, or are simply “found dead in the morning.” Perhaps worst of all, two studies indicate that the great majority of spent racehorses are brutally and violently slaughtered at their career’s end — more than 10,000 thoroughbreds each year alone. Put bluntly, the American horse racing industry is engaged in wholesale carnage. That’s not hyperbole: carnage.
Currently, there are no active thoroughbred tracks left in New England. Massachusetts should maintain its status as a moral beacon and keep it that way. Say no to animal exploitation, cruelty and killing. Say no to horse racing.
The writer is founder and president of Horseracing Wrongs, a nonprofit organization committed to ending horse racing in the U.S.
And here is the letter as sent:
Regarding your recent article “Suffolk Downs likely ‘grandfathered’ at Great Barrington,” I must object to your characterization of death at the track being “occasional.” As the nation’s foremost expert on racehorse deaths, I can state unequivocally that nothing could be further from the truth.
Through our unprecedented FOIA reporting, Horseracing Wrongs has documented – with names, dates, locations – over 5,000 confirmed kills on U.S. tracks just since 2014. We estimate that over 2,000 horses are killed racing or training across America every year. (In Suffolk Downs’ last year of regular racing – a five-month period in 2014 – 15 racehorses lost their lives.) In addition, hundreds more die back in their stalls from things like colic, laminitis, or are simply “found dead in the morning.” And perhaps worst of all, two separate studies indicate that the great majority of spent racehorses are brutally and violently slaughtered at career’s end – some 12,000-15,000 Thoroughbreds alone each year. Put bluntly, the American horseracing industry is engaged in wholesale carnage. Not hyperbole, carnage.
Currently, there is not a single Thoroughbred track left in the whole of New England. Massachusetts, maintain your status as a moral beacon and keep it that way. Say no to animal exploitation; say no to animal cruelty; say no to animal killing. Say no to horseracing.
Okay, so “kills/killed” becomes “deaths/die.” That’s fine, but of far greater importance, two of my numbers were changed: the slaughtered total went from 12,000-15,000 (which I fully explain/defend on the site) to “more than 10,000”; the Suffolk dead went from 15 to 11. It was the latter for which I requested an explanation. The exchange:
On Tue, Aug 13, 2019 at 7:40 PM Patrick Battuello wrote:
First, thank you for publishing my letter; it is greatly appreciated. Just a quick question, though: Why did you change the 15 Suffolk deaths to 11? Here is my post with information direct from the Gaming Commission.
On Wed, Aug 14, 2019, 9:40 AM Berkshire Eagle Letters wrote:
We did some research in the editorial dept. and found that the latest figure was 11.
Bill Everhart, editorial page editor.
The 11 refers to racing and training, but there were four others who died back in their stalls. In total, 15 horses lost their lives at Suffolk Downs in 2014. Again, that’s direct from the Commission. I have the documentation should you be interested.
As of this writing, no response. But here are the Commission documents clearly showing 15, not 11, dead horses. Accuracy matters, always.