Citing a survey that named “animal welfare” the number one cause in America, Ray Paulick, in his eponymous Paulick Report, sounds the alarm (not for the first time) among his fellow apologists: we’d better start taking this stuff seriously or trouble will follow. To help win the issue, Paulick points to the example of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, who, after investing in some “field conservation,” rebranded itself, in the words of its CEO, “one of the world’s largest animal welfare organizations.” Co-opting 101. Paulick: “[make] the public’s No. 1 cause [your] cause, too.”
But to be clear, this is not “animal welfare” for the animals’ sake. Rather, it’s about perception. To illustrate, he presents three recent incidents from Pennsylvania:
At Penn September 28, “Miss Swisher [whom I wrote about]…refused to run a few strides after breaking from the starting gate. Jockey Julio Hernandez could be seen on video striking the horse excessively in the neck or shoulder area with his whip as she pulled herself up, lifting his arm over his head before striking her.”
Same track, same day, “a 2-year-old filly first-time starter named Keltoi was fractious behind the gate…the filly then reared up and flipped over backwards. Nevertheless, she was loaded in the gate and [raced].”
At Parx October 7, “Georgia Bonnet [whom I wrote about]…was racing just off the rail at the top of the stretch and began to lug in. Jockey Tyrone Carter switched the whip to his left hand and, according to Equibase footnotes, hit Georgia Bonnet repeatedly on the left side of her head through deep stretch.”
Terrible, all. But for Paulick, it’s the terrible “optics”: “[These incidents] are troubling to me in what they convey to the public and how they can shape a negative image of the sport. …actions – or lack thereof – will have an impact on how the public views our sport and help them form an opinion about whether we are treating or mistreating their No. 1 cause.”
When the racing people put their true feelings out there so blatantly, I can’t decide whether it’s arrogance or stupidity. Either way, it only goes to confirm what we already knew: “Equine welfare” is a ruse, a base marketing tool. But Paulick is right about this: The animal rights cause is strong and will only get stronger. And eventually, change (Ringling, SeaWorld, dogracing, horseracing as we speak), for in the end, moral progress is irrepressible. And, Mr. Paulick, know this: When the final chapter on “The Sport of Kings” is written, history’s judgment of those who promoted the exploitation, ignored the mass killing, and spun the cruelty will not be kind.