In a recent Paulick Report article on the annual meeting of the Thoroughbred Owners of California (TOC), it was revealed that “The Stronach Group, TOC and [the] California Thoroughbred Trainers separately hired crisis management consultants,” and that “the Breeders’ Cup and Keeneland have retained the same crisis management firm that helped the NFL deal with the concussion crisis in football.” First, this speaks to the palpable desperation – “crisis management” – of an industry exposed. But of more import, later Paulick gives us a window into their strategy:
“One thing [TOC CEO] Avioli said he’s learned is that ‘the argument that horses love to run doesn’t work’ in swaying public opinion. Promoting therapeutic aftercare programs…is a stronger message, he said, as is putting forth the economic importance of the horse industry in supplying jobs for a largely Hispanic workforce.”
Yes, “love to run” is falling a bit flat these days. Perhaps because the public is becoming clued in to the unremitting confinement to a tiny 12×12 stall? Or perhaps it’s those ubiquitous whips that prompt any running that is allowed to occur?
More shameful, and surprising (stupid) in that Paulick and the racing people would allow it to become public, is the plan to (further) exploit the industry’s low-page workers and, more shameful yet, their ethnicity. Ah yes, we mean-spirited activists are out to take jobs away from hard-working “hispanics.” We must, then, be racist. Shameful doesn’t quite cover it – obscene is more apt.
Look, as I’ve written, I respect hard work, especially among the recently-arrived to this country; this is not personal. But in the end, this is a moral matter – animal cruelty – and jobs should not be a part of that conversation. That said, this industry is already in decline, with a net loss of 35 racetracks just since 2000. Where did those workers go? Perhaps on to other jobs? Imagine that – worker mobility in a capitalist society. In addition, all those erstwhile track-properties became something else – with attendant new job opportunities. Let’s look at one.
When 75-year-old Hollywood Park outside of Los Angeles closed in 2013, there was great angst. What about the lost jobs, racing people asked? Well. According to a CurbedLA article from last September, “When fully finished, the new Hollywood Park will be made up of 2,500 units of housing, 620,000 square feet of retail space, a ‘social hub’ with a ‘culinary marketplace’ and ‘giant outdoor movie screen,’ a 300-room luxury hotel, and a revamped Hollywood Park Casino.” And get this, an NFL stadium, to boot. Jobs, jobs, jobs. Now obviously not all tracks sit on as valuable, or as large, a plot of real estate, but you get the idea. Redevelopment means new opportunities.
The redevelopment of properties is, of course, just one manifestation of our free-market system at work. That system has seen myriad, yes myriad, businesses and industries come and go through our nation’s history. As demands and appetites change, as new technologies are born, our economy adapts. One of the more famous examples also involved horses: the horse-and-buggy being supplanted by the automobile – which, as we soon found out, came with a plethora of new (good) jobs.
In addition, to help prepare the backstretch communities for a post-racing life, we fully endorse job retraining – at the industry’s expense. Follows is a list of the top-earning trainers in 2018. The numbers speak for themselves:
Yes, retraining of their mostly minimum-wage workforce is the least these millionaires, in this multi-billion-dollar industry, can do. But in the end, I return to where I started: The preservation of jobs, no matter the number, no matter the quality, should not come at a (continued) cost of cruelty and killing. While it is dubious that Gandhi ever actually said the following, the words, whoever first uttered or wrote them, remain no less true: “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.”