Governor Gavin Newsom of California, in Monday’s New York Times:

“What happened last year was unacceptable, and all of the excuses be damned. We own that going into the next season, and we’re going to have to do something about it. I’ll tell you, talk about a sport whose time is up unless they reform. That’s horse racing. Incredible abuses to these precious animals and the willingness to just to spit these animals out and literally take their lives is a disgrace. The more you realize what’s really going on, the more intolerant you become of certain behaviors.”

First, thank you, Governor Newsom for this strong language – “unacceptable,” indeed, “and all of the excuses be damned.” But for me, the key phrase is this: “a sport whose time is up unless they reform.” Why? Because “reform” is impracticable. To wit:

Horseracing is inherently cruel and inevitably deadly. On the former, in addition to being torn from their mothers as mere babes, being bought and sold like common Amazon products, and subjected to lip tattoos, cribbing collars, nose chains, tongue ties, mouth bits, and whips, racehorses – innately social and mobile animals – are kept locked, alone, in tiny 12×12 stalls for over 23 hours a day. They are kept thus because as assets their owners are loath to risk injury in a more natural (humane) setting, and because creating and maintaining that setting would be cost-prohibitive.

As to the killing, and contrary to what the reformers would have you believe, death at the track is, has always been, and always will be a built-in part of the system: From breeding for speed (big torsos, spindly legs, fragile ankles); to working pubescent bodies (the typical horse doesn’t fully mature until 6; the typical racehorse begins intensive 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) through unnatural means (perched, whip-wielding humans); to the commodification (the average racehorse is bought and sold several times over the course of his “career,” making his long-term well-being of no concern to his current people) – horseracing guarantees a certain level of killing. Guarantees.

Then, too, slaughter. Here, I refer back to the governor’s words: “Incredible abuses to these precious animals and the willingness to just to spit these animals out and literally take their lives is a disgrace.” Fact is, the vast majority of spent or simply no-longer-wanted racehorses are brutally and violently bled-out and butchered in abattoirs north and south of these united states. (This is not simply my opinion; racing insiders corroborate here, here, and here.)

What’s more, Racing needs slaughter. In a recent article in HorseRace Insider, a pro-racing publication, the writer, Mark Berner, admitted the following: “TJC [The Jockey Club] will not support a slaughter-free industry because it will cost $120 million per year to fund the care of the 20,000+ horses bred each year.” Again, The Jockey Club, the most prominent and powerful organization in Racing, will not support a slaughter-free industry – and for proof we need look no further than its refusal to endorse the SAFE Act, a bill that would effectively end the slaughter of American horses – because it would cost too much to care for the horses. Imagine that.

But beyond the vileness, there is truth: Extended out, that cost becomes even more staggering: An average 25-year lifespan, an average 5-year “career,” and an average $5,000 annual cost-of-care means that in order to guarantee a lifetime safe-landing for each and every member of this year’s “foal crop,” the racing industry would have to come up with some $2 billion. That’s 2 billion with a “b.” And again, that’s just for this year’s group. The same would be needed next year, and the year after that, and the year after that, and the year after that. In short, the horseracing industry is deliberately creating thousands of horses every year for which it has neither the desire nor the ability to care for post-exploitation. Hence, slaughter.

In the final analysis, the only thing the “Horseracing Integrity Act” (or any other “reformist” legislation) would do is give Racing a desperately needed PR win, which, in turn, would likely help reverse its currently-declining fortunes – which, in turn, would condemn countless more horses to lives of abuse and premature, gruesome deaths.

So you see, Governor, “the more you realize what’s really going on,” intolerance of this industry’s very existence becomes the only reasonable and compassionate position.

Facts, as John Adams famously said, are stubborn things, and the fact is that the New York Racing Association’s (NYRA) “demonstrably safer racing” is a lie. When we compared 2017 to 2013 – the year the “safety/welfare” recommendations from the task force that you convened were implemented – we found that deaths, both raceday and total (including training and stall), at the three NYRA tracks actually went up. Yes, that’s right, deaths increased from ’13 to ’17. What’s more, the Saratoga ’17 season was the worst on record (since 2009), with 21 dead horses. But that’s not all.

This summer, in the wake of unprecedented media coverage of racehorse deaths (Santa Anita), Saratoga saw 16 horses lose their lives. 16 – which is two more than its historical average. And now, Belmont, since returning for its Fall Meet, has notched 8 kills in 16 days – and 30 on the year. Look at it this way: If they can’t stop the killing when their very existence as an industry depends on it, they can’t stop the killing. So it falls to you, Governor Cuomo, and state government to stop it, and the only way to do that is to shut these racetracks down.

In a landscape that abounds with myriad other gambling and entertainment options, has not the time at long last arrived for us as a supposedly advanced society to stop gambling on and being entertained by the suffering and death of sentient beings?

End the cruelty. End the killing. End horseracing.

As I’ve oft said, the younger generations, as a rule, “get it.” From birth, they have had information at their fingertips. And there is no better catalyst for change, for moral progress, than (factual) information. So while I am greatly heartened by these recent letters to the editor from high school students, I am not in the least surprised. A warm thanks to these brave young adults.

To the editor:

Horse racing has become a sport in which the horses are indisputably born to die. The “sport” is now a source of entertainment for onlookers who are too blind to see the real truth about horse racing.

I am writing as a high school student at Pittsfield High School. I realize I am not quite able to vote, but I will be soon enough. As a proud member of the Defenders Club at Berkshire Humane Society, I believe that the horse racing industry should no longer be supported by anyone.

Over 1,000 horses die every year on the race track and these numbers are no surprise to the horse racing industry. Even more are euthanized at a trainer[‘s] farm, training facilities or due to “training deaths.” It is sickening to me that people are letting this happen right under their noses, but they choose not to care at all. Some injuries can easily be treated or fixed with time, care, and compassion, but the injured horses are seen as useless debt, so the easiest, and least expensive choice is to euthanize the poor horse.

So all I ask you to not attend any horse racing function because it would be a sign that you find entertainment in the horses’ misery. Please educate your friends and your family about the truth of horse racing.

Senate bill S.101 and House bill H1.3 would allow a license issued over 20 years ago by the Racing Commission to operate as permission for the return of racing to Great Barrington Fairgrounds. This would strip the community of the right to vote. How can we let this happen?

Elodie Theriault,
The Berkshire Eagle, September 20, 2019

I am writing as a high school student at TEC Connections Academy, but also as a concerned member of my community. I realize I am not quite able to vote, but I will be soon enough. As a member of the Defenders club at Berkshire Humane Society, I believe NOT supporting the horse racing industry is incredibly important.

Horse racing is no longer the “sport of kings” it used to be. It has instead become a sport of corruption, bribery, fraud, greed, and a complete lack of ethics for animals.

Did you know that over 1,000 horses died last year on the racetrack? That number does not even include the deaths of horses after they were euthanized at the trainer’s farm or private training facilities, what they refer to as “training deaths.” Never mind the horses that were sent to slaughter in other countries after failing in the industry. Where is the accountability for these animals? If dogs or cats were being treated in this same fashion wouldn’t the pubic want justice for the animals?

Senate Bill S101 and House Bill H13 allow a license issued over 20 years ago by the Racing Commission to operate as permission for the return of racing to Great Barrington Fairgrounds. This would strip the community of the right to vote. How can we let this happen in our community?

Lena P. DuPont
The Berkshire Edge, September 20, 2019

While NYRA and Saratoga Race Course are busy celebrating “another successful season,” here was the cost of that success, courtesy of our own Linda Rydant. (The Borough Boy replay – 1:45 mark – alone should be enough for all Americans of good conscience and compassion to forever forswear this vile business.)