A barn fire at Belmont Park last night has resulted in the deaths of two racehorses; the New York Racing Association has yet to release identifying information other than to say they were trained by Wayne Potts.
By now, you should know our position on this. While the racing people are busy consoling and congratulating themselves with talk of “tragedy” and “heroism” (for getting the other horses out), they utterly ignore the core, uncomfortable, inconvenient fact: Like the civil war soldiers who were felled by dysentery but still recorded (unequivocally) as casualties, so too are racehorses who die in their stalls industry kills – no matter the immediate cause. Yes, fires can and do happen anywhere, but if not for racing, those poor, terrified horses would not have been in that place, at that time. And lest we forget, as domesticated (read: enslaved) animals, their natural autonomy had long since been stripped. They were trapped – figuratively and literally – inside a system, inside a stall, wholly dependent on human beings for everything, including their lives. And that is a cruelty in and of itself. So, yes, this is a tragedy, but the larger tragedy is the industry that made it possible.