Horseracing, if not with its back against the wall, is certainly in retreat, and has been for some time now. (The reason for this is twofold: exposure and public engagement, both of which, I write proudly, HW has been a driving force behind.) As such, industry rhetoric has grown increasingly desperate; in the face of facts and truth, their “arguments” have been rendered hollow and specious. Follows are some of those arguments, and our responses. Consider it a cheat sheet, if you will, for the next time you find yourself confronted with apologist inanity.
On “reform,” “safety,” “striving toward zero deaths”:
Horseracing kills horses, inherently. From breeding for speed (big torsos, spindly legs, fragile ankles), to working pubescent bodies (the typical horse doesn’t fully mature until six; the typical racehorse begins 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) in an unnatural way (always counter-clockwise) through unnatural means (perched, whip-wielding humans), to the commodification (the average racehorse is bought and sold multiple times, making long-term health of little concern to current “connections”), horseracing guarantees killing. Guarantees.
On “our horses are part of the family,” “like our children”:
Nothing says “love” like I own you and won’t hesitate to sell you. Nothing says “care” like I will keep you locked, alone, in a tiny room, pump you with drugs, and have you flogged. Nothing says “part of the family” like the slaughterhouse.
On “isn’t it better that these horses were given a chance to live, have a job?”:
Subjecting a sentient being to a life of abject suffering and often gruesome death is evil. Never having created that life in the first place is nothing, neutral, victimless.
On “what will happen to all the horses if racing is banned?”:
Racing will not suddenly come to a close overnight. It will contract, or to be more precise, continue to contract: Since 2000, U.S. Racing has suffered a net loss of 38 tracks. The annual “foal crop” – new Thoroughbreds entering the system – is roughly half what it was in 1990. All other relevant metrics – racedays, races, “field sizes,” etc. – are also down. As this contraction continues, so too will the breeding; when that last group of tracks closes, there will be ample space and funding to care for what’s left. But more to the point, where do spent racehorses go now? For most – thousands annually – the slaughterhouse. In other words, this query is grossly misdirected.
On the “pampered athlete”:
Racehorses are confined (alone, to tiny 12×12 stalls, for over 23 hours a day), commodified (tattoos, auctions, “claiming” races), controlled (cribbing collars, lip/nose chains, tongue ties, eye blinders, mouth bits), and cowed (whips). Bought and sold multiple times over the course of his so-called career, the typical American racehorse lives a stressful, tenuous existence that in and of itself causes pain. In fact, studies show that up to 90% of active racehorses suffer from chronic ulcers.
On jobs being lost as tracks close:
First, the pari-mutuel employees can easily be transitioned to jobs in the burgeoning casino and sports-betting industries. Second, racetrack properties are extremely valuable; they can and will be redeveloped – office, retail, industrial, restaurants, parks, desperately needed housing – creating new jobs (and opportunities for other workers, like those on the backstretch) and new tax revenues. For proof, see this list of shuttered tracks that have been, or are in the process of being, reimagined.
Good synopsis. Just as an example, look at the location of Golden Gate Fields. That property is worth millions and could easily be sold and redeveloped into something more useful than running horses to death.
Look also at the rare coastal land occupied by the Del Mar racetrack in So CA. I take every opportunity to write to my state and local politicians pointing out the better uses for this land. A nature preserve would be amazing (on at least part of the land) mixed with passive recreational and concert/fair venue.
Thanks for this post Patrick because the horse racing myths and apologist delusions must be dispelled.
JOBS: how can they claim jobs when their jobs are 90%+ supported by local resident taxpayers and by casino profits all of which should be going into public community essentials such as education or infrastructure? I would think that in a Free Market society that jobs should be based on profits. Why should the public coffers pay for a private enterprise whose owners are among the richest in America if not the world? The majority of these owners, most of whom don’t pay taxes, spend hundreds of thousands of dollars buying 1 racehorse. Yet, they rely on publicly-funded enterprises to keep this killing show going.
POLITICIANS: how can any politician justify this misuse of public funds when their local public coffers are bankrupt? This was going on pre-Covid, but exacerbated now with even the most basic needs requiring funding while we are giving this vile business millions? These politicians should be held accountable in some capacity whether it’s at the voting polls or even neutral audits.
ENVIRONMENT: this is an issue that has been often overlooked, but now needs attention more than ever. Climate Change is real, Our precious resources such as water is becoming, not a basic right anymore, but a precious commodity. This will only get worse with time. Look no further than California and the west right now in the worse draught of the century. While millions of people will be without power (electro-dam power needs water) and being severely limited with water intake horse racing requires about 30,000 gallons of water PER DAY PER TRACK just to keep their unsafe track surfaces damp so that racehorses can run in circles and die.
Horse racing supports the slaughterhouse and although they are located in Canada and Mexico they are an environmental disaster. The waste and massive carnage to keep this shit show going is outrageous!
Incidentally, the person who has been submitting water reports, including ocean pollution coming from Del Mar, is a former CHRB member and now executive of his own private water company that generates reports.
He was a very prolific racehorse owner and breeder whom has sent horses to Baffert.
Would be happy to provide name and company for anybody whose interested.
It appears that horseracing will always kill horses (thousands of horses) by torturing them to death the way racing “pampers” horses and forces young colts and fillies to run as soon as they are tall enough to put a saddle and RIDER on their backs. Teaching horses basic things from the ground at the age of 18-months is acceptable, but forcing horses to carry the weight of saddle and RIDER at 18-months of age is a form of abuse and inhumane brutality in itself. Horses are forced to gallop FAST at racetracks, as everyone knows, but does everyone know that there is no reforming this DEGENERATE mentality of cruelty to horses? This whole industry is responsible for the deaths of thousands of horses by the cruelty inflicted upon them. A racetrack is a death camp for hundreds if not thousands of horses. If the horse survives the brutalization of racing, they are more often than not sold to a killbuyer and sent to slaughter. So how is that being pampered? This idea of a horse being pampered by racing is delusional and ignorant. Horseracing is Animal Cruelty.