Yeah, We Kill Horses, Says an Apologist, But People Die in Traffic Accidents, Don’t They?

In a Harness Link column yesterday, the writer, John Berry, takes umbrage at the media “lumping all breeds together” when it comes to the killing. Berry notes the PBS piece that cited our 2022 Killed List, but he erroneously writes that the dead are all Thoroughbreds. They are not. We have always reported deaths from all three types of racing – Thoroughbred, QuarterHorse, Standardbred – and they have always appeared together, on the same list. Horseracing is horseracing. Berry does rightly point out that his beloved harness racing contributes far fewer deaths. But I say, what does that matter when Standardbreds are treated exactly the same (cruelly, that is), and when they end up in those same slaughterhouses. But then Berry veers off into fantasy land:

“It’s a tragedy when one single death occurs on a racetrack, but, as we’ve cited before, God plays no favorites when it comes to athletics…and there are tragedies in every single activity considered as sport and featuring healthy and well-trained athletes.”

Obviously, any comparison between racing and human sports must be contextualized with these two words: informed consent. But Berry, who as expected ignores the whole enslavement thing, then goes on to play fast and loose with statistics. After the above quote, which clearly sets us up for a horseracing-to-sports comparison, he writes:

“You think horse racing of any sort deserves more scrutiny? It is estimated that over 50,000 deaths happen each year in the U.S. alone as a result of traumatic brain injuries.”

Obviously, 50,000 athletes are not dying from TBIs each year. Not even close (it’s probably more like 5). That 50,000 (it’s actually more) is from all causes. He then expounds on the dangers of “slap fighting” (as if that’s a sport) before pivoting back to his original premise: “From baseball to boxing…from football to soccer…(well, maybe not chess)…from bull riding to skiing…there are injuries…there are deaths.”

Finally, and again conflating sports with everyday life, Berry concludes his shameful bit of “journalism” with this: “But our sport is just one of millions of occupations with all involving the risk of dying. Heck, I’m driving on my way to work on I-95 right now where over 40,000 were killed on highways. I hope I don’t get killed in traffic.”

Speechless. Anyway, here is what I’ve previously written on the topic…

Horseracing-as-sport is an obscenity of the highest order. There are, of course, many reasons why, but perhaps the three most obvious are these: First, the athletes in question are utterly unaware of their status as such – worse, they are in fact pieces of chattel, animal slaves. Second, participation in said sport is compelled by whip-wielding humans. Third, and most telling of all, death on the field of play.

That horseracing kills horses is settled fact. But what most of the public doesn’t know is the magnitude of that killing, nor in how it relates to other accepted sports. Each year, hundreds of American racehorses die on “game day” (just racing, not including training/stall). Hundreds. In comparison, here are the game-related death totals for the four major U.S. professional sports leagues over their entire histories:

Major League Baseball, founded 1903, 120 seasons: one death (Ray Chapman)
National Hockey League, founded 1917-18, 106 seasons: one death (Bill Masterton)
National Football League, founded 1920, 103 seasons: one death (Chuck Hughes)
National Basketball Association, founded 1946-47, 77 seasons: zero deaths

In other words, horseracing kills about as many in one day as the other four have in their collective 406 years. Case closed. Again.

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  1. It’s worth noting that Chuck Hughes had a heart attack, he did not die from injuries sustained during the game.

  2. Yes. Informed Consent. These guys always skip over that tiny little issue: No informed consent.

  3. With all of his denying and deflecting, it’s interesting to note that he still admits they do kill horses.
    So, is it okay to put horses at risk of fatal injuries in the pursuit of winning races and bets? Is it okay for the wagering/gambling venues to exploit horses as gambling objects in order to rake in millions of dollars? I believe the answer to these questions is “NO, absolutely not!”
    All of this exploitation of horses for racing and wagering handle is cruel and completely unnecessary. People have a moral responsibility to do things that are of good report and not evil and abusive.
    Racing horses in harness as well as under saddle causes harm and death to horses, therefore the racing people should be punished by law for violating Animal Welfare Codes.
    When a horse is maimed in a race or in training, the human connections should be punished by law. The people in this cruel industry should not be above the law.

    • Thanks Wanda, you are always spot on. Love reading your posts. Thanks for your dedication. Kill Racing Not Horses!

    • John Berry is a dolt. Comparing horse racing to car crashes? Nobody has ever whipped me to drive at breakneck speeds so they can make money. And the comparison with human sports is also ridiculous. As you all have pointed out, humans participate in sports because they choose to. And I don’t recall ever watching a football or basketball game where an athlete was “vanned off” the field or court and the game went on without pause. If human athletes started dying at the rate horses die, those human sports would be made illegal in an instant.

    • Informed consent or any consent … horses don’t give us permission to get on their backs. It’s a serious responsibility to do so.

    • I agree! And for openers how many human athletes are euthanized because of bone fractures?!!

  4. I wonder how many of these owners and trainers would personally participate in a sport that has the same fatality rate as horse racing?

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