Racing is set to hold the latest in what feels like an endless stream of take-stock-of-our-industry conferences this December in Arizona. The “Global Symposium on Racing & Gaming” will feature the usual fare – “cultivating customer loyalty,” finding “new wagering products” to help “grow the sport,” improving “medication and substance integrity,” etc. – but one item on the docket stands out as not just atypical for events like this but downright game-changing. On the final day, comes this:
The Animal Rights Agenda: An Issue That Can No Longer Be Ignored
Animal rights protesters were found in large numbers outside racing’s two most iconic tracks this summer, Saratoga and Del Mar, and they aren’t going away. Is there any middle ground racing can find with these groups? Panelists with years of experience dealing with these types of groups will enlighten the audience of tactics these organizations use, some successful campaigns used against them as well as the animal rights groups successes that have fundamentally changed the way a number of animal industries operate. Now is the time for racing to seriously consider how the actions of these groups may forever change the face of the sport.
Remarkable. Truly remarkable. First, the obvious: We’re winning; the above is proof-positive. By our numbers, which we plan on growing exponentially next summer, through unrelenting exposure, we have compelled them to confront us – to put us on the agenda. (And, not so gently nudged the media: Because our protests practically demanded coverage, for the first time in 150 years the killing at “iconic” Saratoga received more than a mere glossing over.) From here, as any student of the great social-justice movements can tell you, the writing is on the wall. You see, these things don’t just fade away; they get stronger and stronger and stronger, until – change.
Here, though, I want to be crystal clear on the change we seek (and perhaps aid in the planning of future “symposiums”). There is no “middle ground” to be had. We are not looking for a mere seat at the table or to “change the face of the sport”; we want the table gone, the “sport” erased. No compromise, no reform – an end to horseracing, pure and simple. And I can save them even more time. Our “tactics” are neither elaborate nor, for that matter, even plural. In this fight, we wield but one, simple tool: education. Impart knowledge; let compassion and conscience take it from there.
Finally, I almost find it astounding that they would make public their plan to identify “campaigns” to use against us. Insulting, really, as if we’re not sophisticated enough to do anything more than hold placards, incapable of monitoring their activities. Or maybe they just don’t care. Maybe the threat we pose, though they concede as real, does not rise to some requisite level of seriousness that would warrant more secrecy. No matter, the upshot remains the same. Attempts to discredit, to smear, to muddle our message, to repackage their century-old lie of a message – horseracing is a sport, the horses “athletes” – will not work, for we are smart; we are organized; but above all, we have the facts – the truth – on our side. And truth, folks, is irrepressible.
Yes, sensibilities in regard to animals are changing: Ringling has retired its elephants; SeaWorld is phasing-out its orcas; “vegan” is no longer an alien word. Is it so hard, then, to imagine a world where horses are no longer beaten, maimed, and killed for $2 bets? I think not. And judging by the above, I believe the racing people can see it, too.