As previously relayed, a bicameral bill has been introduced in New York that would strip that state’s racing industry of most of its quarter-billion-dollar annual subsidy. And now the war (of words) is on. Because the racing people can’t rationally justify this corporate welfare – propping up an archaic gambling industry at the expense of schoolchildren is, or at least should be, a political loser – they have framed this as an animal-rights action, as if somehow that’s bad. NYRA spokesman Patrick McKenna:
“Organizations like NYClass, PETA and Horseracing Wrongs have long been philosophically opposed to horse racing and make no secret of their desire to end the sport. … [T]hese groups are only interested in how best to damage horse racing to further their own political agenda. … [T]hey cannot be trusted.” And more: The Thoroughbred Daily News: “Backed by a number of animal rights groups, two New York state lawmakers have introduced a bill….” And Horse Racing Nation: “The bill is supported by a litany of the usual suspects attempting to eradicate horse racing, including Patrick Battuello of Horseracing Wrongs….”
For its part, the coalition has chosen to fight this mainly on the economics line. And that’s fine, for on that, we’re on solid ground: The 19,000 jobs cited by the industry is almost certainly inflated. But even if not, (a) it’s still a tiny fraction of the overall workforce, (b) most of these jobs are low-paying, and (c) many of them seasonal/part-time. Besides, how many jobs could other NY industries create with $250 million/year in free money? Also, after accounting for the cost to regulate racing, the return to the state via taxes and fees is fairly negligible. And finally, each of the 11 NY tracks sits on valuable property – property that can and will be redeveloped, leading to new (probably better) jobs, new economic activity, and new tax revenue (proof here).
Still, I must ask, why should we run from the animal-rights tag? Is horseracing not, at its core, a moral issue? Are these animals not being exploited, abused, and killed by the thousands every year (see horseracingwrongs.org) and all for nothing more than $2 bets? In my view, then, if we can agree that it is wrong – immoral – to treat horses this way, for this purpose, then the questions of how many jobs are at play or what kind of economic activity is generated are wholly irrelevant.
But here’s the thing, and contrary to what the industry believes, going after the subsidies is not a backdoor tactic. Unfortunately, hearts and minds alone will not win the day. We can, and probably already do, have most New Yorkers with us, but as long as these subsidies remain on the books, the cruelty and killing will continue (while the horse people laugh all the way to the bank). In other words, this bill is not an animal-rights ploy – it’s an absolute necessity.
(We will provide information on how best to support the bill in the near future.)