An Open Letter to Bruno Mars

Bruno Mars is scheduled to play the Preakness after-race party in Baltimore May 20. We have created an action asking Bruno to reconsider. I have also sent a letter to his manager (in the hope that it will be forwarded to Bruno). Please sign and share – and please be respectful. Our goal is to educate first, and hopefully effect a change.

Here is the letter…

Dear Mr. Mars,

My name is Patrick Battuello, and I am the founder and president of Horseracing Wrongs, the nation’s foremost anti-horseracing organization. I am writing in regard to your intention to play the Preakness post-race party in Baltimore May 20. As your many charitable works indicate, you are undoubtedly a kind and thoughtful person – one who, I have to believe, would not wish to be associated with animal cruelty. So with that said, I respectfully submit the following on the U.S. horseracing industry.

Through the force of brilliant marketing, we Americans are conditioned from birth to view horseracing as just another sport – indeed, “The Sport of Kings.” And there is no better manifestation of this than the Triple Crown races each spring. But beneath this well-crafted facade – the horseracing they want, they allow, us to see – lurks a sinister core, one that is ugly and mean, and oh so very deadly.

Since 2014, Horseracing Wrongs has documented almost 10,000 deaths at U.S. racetracks. Our research, however, indicates that over 2,000 racehorses are killed across America every year – cardiac arrest, pulmonary hemorrhage, blunt-force head trauma, broken necks, severed spines, ruptured ligaments, shattered legs. Over 2,000 – or about six dead horses a day. In Maryland, the two Thoroughbred tracks – Laurel and Pimlico – have averaged a combined 35 kills annually since 2014; since your last appearance at the Preakness in 2011, roughly 500 horses have perished at MD tracks.

And when not dying at the track, they’re dying at the abattoir: Two independent studies (as well as industry admissions) indicate that multiple thousands of spent or simply no-longer-wanted racehorses are bled-out and butchered – slaughtered, that is – each year. The whimsical names and cheering crowds a bitter lifetime ago.

But it’s not just the killing. There is, too, the everyday cruelty:

Would-be racehorses are forever torn from their mothers and herds as mere babies; broken, an industry term meaning to be made pliant and submissive; and sold into the system. From there, the grinding begins immediately. While a horse does not reach full musculoskeletal maturity till the age of six, racehorses are typically thrust into intensive training at 18 months, and raced at two – the rough equivalent of a first-grader. In the necropsies, we see time and again 4-, 3-, even 2-year-old horses dying with chronic conditions like osteoarthritis and degenerative joint disease – clear evidence of the incessant pounding their unformed bodies are forced to absorb.

In perhaps the worst of it, racehorses, as a rule, are kept locked alone in tiny 12×12 stalls for over 23 hours a day, making a mockery of the industry claim that “horses are born to run,” and a cruelty all the worse for being inflicted on innately social animals like horses. Prominent equine veterinarian Dr. Kraig Kulikowski likens this to keeping a child locked in a 4×4 closet for over 23 hours a day. Imagine that. Relatedly, practically all the horse’s natural instincts and desires are thwarted, creating an emotional and mental suffering that is brought home with crystal clarity in the stereotypies commonly seen in confined racehorses: cribbing, wind-sucking, bobbing, weaving, pacing, digging, kicking, even self-mutilation.

Because racehorses are valuable assets, their people thoroughly control every moment of their lives – control that is often effected through force and intimidation: pushing, shoving, pulling, yanking, goading, prodding, yelling, screaming; and through the tools of the trade: nose chains, lip chains, tongue ties, eye blinders, mouth “bits” – which, says Dr. Robert Cook, an expert on equine physiology, make the horses feel like they’re suffocating when being forced to run at breakneck speeds – and, of course, whips. On that, the very public flogging administered to racehorses would land a person in jail if done to his dog in the park. But at the track, it’s part of the tradition.

Finally, there is the commodification. By law, racehorses are literal chattel – pieces of property to be bought, sold, traded, and dumped whenever and however their people decide. To make matters worse, they are not even afforded the protections, woefully inadequate as most are, of animal-cruelty statutes, meaning an owner or trainer can run his horse into the ground – yes, even to death – with virtual impunity. What’s more, the average racehorse will change hands multiple times over the course of his so-called career, adding anxiety and stress to an already anxious, stressful existence. This near-constant shuffling among trainers, grooms, vets, barns, tracks, and states is a primary reason why some 90% of active racehorses suffer from chronic ulcers.

Truth is, in regard to how the relative animals are treated, there is no difference between dogracing and horseracing. In fact, one could argue that horseracing is worse because of slaughter. But while one is all but dead – there are currently just two dog tracks left in America; even more telling, dogracing is prohibited on moral grounds in 42 states – the other continues along merrily under the banner of “sport.”

Dr. Martin Luther King once famously said, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” And I believe that. But I also believe that that arc should carry the other sentient beings with whom we share this planet. At a minimum, can we not agree that horses do not deserve to suffer and die for $2 bets and frivolous entertainment? Please, Mr. Mars, reconsider your participation. If you do, not only will you become an instant hero to these beautiful animals, but when that final chapter on horseracing is written – and it will be written (see Ringling, SeaWorld, rodeo bans across the country, dogracing) – your simple yet courageous and compassionate act will stand as one of the seminal moments that hastened its end.

Thank you for your kind consideration. Should you wish to discuss further, please feel free to reach out.

Patrick Battuello
Founder/President, Horseracing Wrongs

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  1. To watch horses race is to watch multiple crimes in progress. These animal abusers should be punished for their crimes.

  2. Superlative presentation of the reasons why horse racing has to be shut down. To all those who have their hearts broken by the atrocities permitted against horses, may I suggest cut and paste, and personally go thru your contacts on Facebook and make a personal pleas for them to get involved in the campaign to end the brutalities against horses (thoroughbreds as well as standardbreds). I was sharing Patrick’s postings, but to my dismay I have been hacked and my comments supporting Patrick’s efforts have been thwarted. So if you are not receiving feedback from friends on issues important to you, make inquiries and do one on one contacts. We cannot allow our voices to be stifled by an industry that is clearly without heart or conscience.

  3. Thank you, Patrick. We are the generations who have come to know better. Things must change. I will sign and share.

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