Beyond the obvious sadness involved, animal activism can be, to say the least, extremely frustrating work. Change, while it does happen, never comes quite fast enough. But I’m here to say that on this issue, while we obviously still have to kill the subsidies, in the war for hearts and minds (which must come first), we are winning. No question about it.
One need not follow horseracing (or this site) to know that the killing, which I remind is inherent to the industry, has been national news for almost a month now, even more so than it was during the Santa Anita spring of 2019. Literally a day has not gone by since the week of the Derby without a mainstream media piece on dead horses. Now, as expected the coverage is not always ideal. For example, in this PBS News Weekend segment, although our data is mentioned, the AP “journalist” who is interviewed reveals herself as not only ignorant – which, to my mind, is unforgivable in her profession – but, in fact, to be a simple shill for the racing industry. Still, the cruelty and killing has been squarely in the national conversation. And that’s good.
Relatedly, there’s this. A Baltimore Sun piece – “Even with Bruno Mars boost, attendance lagged far behind pre-pandemic turnout” – in the aftermath of Saturday’s Preakness notes the following: “1/ST Racing, owners of Pimlico Race Course and the Maryland Jockey Club, said Sunday in a news release that a combined 65,000 people attended Friday, which was Black-Eyed Susan Day, and Saturday. By comparison, roughly 182,000 attended the events over two days in 2019, meaning turnout this year was a little more than a third of the total for the last Preakness before the pandemic.”
2019 attendance: 182,000
2023 attendance: 65,000
The article continued:
“Some racing fans said Saturday that the small crowd concerned them as it relates to the future of horse racing. The industry has downsized for years — nationally, more than 40 tracks have closed since 2000 [this stat, by the way, comes from Horseracing Wrongs] — and a number of equine deaths recently has cast a shadow over the sport. A 3-year-old colt, Havnameltdown, broke down Saturday during the day’s sixth race with an injured leg. Black screens were brought onto the track to conceal the horse from the crowd, and he was euthanized as dance music continued to blast from the infield.”
And it’s probably even worse for the industry, for as the article points out, most of the younger people were there just to see Bruno Mars. When you have to resort to gimmicks, you know you’re in trouble. Finally, while the article does note that the handle (total amount wagered) was only slightly down from last year, it is in fact down significantly from 15 years ago (when adjusted for inflation). All this is to say, progress.