Governor Gavin Newsom of California, in Monday’s New York Times:
“What happened last year was unacceptable, and all of the excuses be damned. We own that going into the next season, and we’re going to have to do something about it. I’ll tell you, talk about a sport whose time is up unless they reform. That’s horse racing. Incredible abuses to these precious animals and the willingness to just to spit these animals out and literally take their lives is a disgrace. The more you realize what’s really going on, the more intolerant you become of certain behaviors.”
First, thank you, Governor Newsom for this strong language – “unacceptable,” indeed, “and all of the excuses be damned.” But for me, the key phrase is this: “a sport whose time is up unless they reform.” Why? Because “reform” is impracticable. To wit:
Horseracing is inherently cruel and inevitably deadly. On the former, in addition to being torn from their mothers as mere babes, being bought and sold like common Amazon products, and subjected to lip tattoos, cribbing collars, nose chains, tongue ties, mouth bits, and whips, racehorses – innately social and mobile animals – are kept locked, alone, in tiny 12×12 stalls for over 23 hours a day. They are kept thus because as assets their owners are loath to risk injury in a more natural (humane) setting, and because creating and maintaining that setting would be cost-prohibitive.
As to the killing, and contrary to what the reformers would have you believe, death at the track is, has always been, and always will be a built-in part of the system: From breeding for speed (big torsos, spindly legs, fragile ankles); to working pubescent bodies (the typical horse doesn’t fully mature until 6; the typical racehorse begins intensive training at 18 months); to the incessant grinding of those bodies (if they’re not racing, they’re not earning); to forcing them to run at an unnatural rate (breakneck) through unnatural means (perched, whip-wielding humans); to the commodification (the average racehorse is bought and sold several times over the course of his “career,” making his long-term well-being of no concern to his current people) – horseracing guarantees a certain level of killing. Guarantees.
Then, too, slaughter. Here, I refer back to the governor’s words: “Incredible abuses to these precious animals and the willingness to just to spit these animals out and literally take their lives is a disgrace.” Fact is, the vast majority of spent or simply no-longer-wanted racehorses are brutally and violently bled-out and butchered in abattoirs north and south of these united states. (This is not simply my opinion; racing insiders corroborate here, here, and here.)
What’s more, Racing needs slaughter. In a recent article in HorseRace Insider, a pro-racing publication, the writer, Mark Berner, admitted the following: “TJC [The Jockey Club] will not support a slaughter-free industry because it will cost $120 million per year to fund the care of the 20,000+ horses bred each year.” Again, The Jockey Club, the most prominent and powerful organization in Racing, will not support a slaughter-free industry – and for proof we need look no further than its refusal to endorse the SAFE Act, a bill that would effectively end the slaughter of American horses – because it would cost too much to care for the horses. Imagine that.
But beyond the vileness, there is truth: Extended out, that cost becomes even more staggering: An average 25-year lifespan, an average 5-year “career,” and an average $5,000 annual cost-of-care means that in order to guarantee a lifetime safe-landing for each and every member of this year’s “foal crop,” the racing industry would have to come up with some $2 billion. That’s 2 billion with a “b.” And again, that’s just for this year’s group. The same would be needed next year, and the year after that, and the year after that, and the year after that. In short, the horseracing industry is deliberately creating thousands of horses every year for which it has neither the desire nor the ability to care for post-exploitation. Hence, slaughter.
In the final analysis, the only thing the “Horseracing Integrity Act” (or any other “reformist” legislation) would do is give Racing a desperately needed PR win, which, in turn, would likely help reverse its currently-declining fortunes – which, in turn, would condemn countless more horses to lives of abuse and premature, gruesome deaths.
So you see, Governor, “the more you realize what’s really going on,” intolerance of this industry’s very existence becomes the only reasonable and compassionate position.