My Rejected Op-Ed to the LA Times

In a Los Angeles Times article from April 4, David Wharton writes: “[The Jockey Club’s] statistics equate to 6,134 deaths in the last 10 years.” While Wharton does note that that figure is only for “participating” tracks (not all submit data to the JC) and does not include training kills, the 6,134 is still, of course, massively understated (see here, and here for a better understanding of the database’s disqualifying flaws).

On the same day, the paper’s editorial board also weighed in, writing, “On Sunday…Arms Runner fell…broke his right front leg and was euthanized. He was the 23rd horse to die while racing or training at the park in a span of three months. By contrast, there were 37 deaths there during seven months of racing in 2017-18.” The implication there is obvious. So, I thought, some record straightening was in order. Accordingly, I wrote and submitted an op-ed; for whatever reason, it was rejected. I reproduce it here…

The recent string of racehorse deaths at Santa Anita Park in California has attracted widespread national attention and, in the process, left the racing industry scrambling. Part of their strategy of distraction is to use words like “spike,” “spate,” and “anomaly,” implying that this – in the words of CHRB equine medical director Rick Arthur – is but a “blip on the radar.” As the nation’s foremost expert on racehorse deaths, I can state unequivocally that nothing could be further from the truth.

According to the CHRB’s own statistics, in the 11-year period 7/1/07-6/30/18 Santa Anita averaged 50 dead racehorses annually. 50 dead horses every year. And it’s not as if one or two bad years skewed that average: Every 12-month period but one (when “only” 37 died) saw at least 40 corpses. And they can’t even claim they’re heading in the right direction as two of the three worst years were ’15-’16 and ’16-’17.

2007-08 51 dead racehorses at Santa Anita Park
2008-09 41 dead racehorses at Santa Anita Park
2009-10 42 dead racehorses at Santa Anita Park
2010-11 37 dead racehorses at Santa Anita Park
2011-12 71 dead racehorses at Santa Anita Park
2012-13 43 dead racehorses at Santa Anita Park
2013-14 52 dead racehorses at Santa Anita Park
2014-15 46 dead racehorses at Santa Anita Park
2015-16 62 dead racehorses at Santa Anita Park
2016-17 64 dead racehorses at Santa Anita Park
2017-18 44 dead racehorses at Santa Anita Park
September 2018-April 2019 35 dead racehorses at Santa Anita Park

That’s almost 600 dead horses at Santa Anita since July 2007. An anomaly? Please.

To those who may take issue with the inclusion of “stall deaths” in the above (though they shouldn’t: two-thirds of soldier-deaths in the Civil War were non-combat related, yet no one would dare say that those men were any less casualties of the war than the ones who died in the fields), consider this: In the three most recent fiscal years – not including the current meet – there have been 148 track-related (racing or training) kills at Santa Anita – almost 50 per year. Again, that does not include the current 23. At all California racetracks, 435 kills – in just three years. Imagine that.

Nationally, Horseracing Wrongs, primarily through our seminal FOIA reporting, has documented over 5,000 confirmed on-track deaths since 2014; we estimate that over 2,000 horses are killed on U.S. tracks annually. Over 2,000. Pulmonary hemorrhage, head trauma, “sudden cardiac event.” Shattered limbs, ruptured ligaments, broken necks, crushed spines. What’s more, countless other still-active “equine athletes” succumb to colic, laminitis, “barn accidents,” or are simply “found dead” in their stalls.

Then, too, slaughter. While the industry desperately tries to downplay the extent of the problem, cunningly flashing its hollow zero-tolerance policies and drop-in-the-bucket aftercare initiatives, the truth is, the vast majority of spent racehorses are brutally and violently slaughtered – over 15,000 Thoroughbreds alone each year. In short, it is no exaggeration to say that the American horseracing industry is engaged in wholesale carnage. Again, not hyperbole – carnage.

Sensibilities toward animal exploitation, most especially regarding entertainment, are rapidly changing. In just the past few years:

– SeaWorld, owing mostly to outrage over the film Blackfish, has ended its captive-breeding program for orcas and remains in a slow, steady decline.

– Ringling Bros. has closed for good, ending 146 years of animal abuse.

– Illinois and New York have become the first two states to ban the use of elephants for entertainment.

– The National Aquarium will release all of its remaining performing-dolphins to a seaside sanctuary by 2020.

– Los Angeles stands poised to ban the rodeo within city limits.

– And just this past November, Floridians voted overwhelmingly – by over 2:1 – to outlaw greyhound racing in that state by the end of next year, a monumental win for animals that will in one fell swoop shutter 11 of the nation’s final 17 dogtracks, leaving that industry in America all but dead.

So the question becomes, why should horseracing be exempt? Why is it allowed cover under the banner of sport when in fact it is nothing more that an anachronistic gambling business? In a landscape that abounds with plenty of other options – casinos, lotteries, real sports involving autonomous human beings – hasn’t the time at long last arrived to stop wagering on the backs of suffering animals?

End the cruelty. End the killing. End horseracing.

Patrick Battuello
Founder/President, Horseracing Wrongs

15 Comments

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  1. Thank you Patrick for all that you do for these beautiful souls. Strange that it was rejected, sounds fishy. I believe in my heart that it will eventually be shut down for good. There are too many people that know about their ugly secrets.

  2. THANK YOU, Patrick for your diligent, hard work —- we understand WHY —- we hope that many more out there will also understand as to WHY — Let’s remember : The history of mankind is carried on the back of the horse — All horses deserve to be respected and protected no matter what a man says they’re worth.

  3. Politics plays a tremendous part in all so called “sport” venues. As you know, horse racing is a tax revenue maker for most municipalities as well as cruelty and death for the innocent horses. I think most people who go to racetracks, are unthinking clods, who are ignorant of the cruelty that goes on
    there. Or they are greedy, cruel owners who don’t care about the horse’s fate. Or they are just plain unworldly and stupidly common people, who’d sell their grandmother for a two dollar bet. Someday, the cruelty of stupid trainers, drugs, and horse racing will disappear. Thank you for all you do for the horses and ending this
    disgusting industry.

  4. Thank You Patrick for being a constant advocate of this horrible animal abuse. These race tracks are something that we just do not need in today’s society. Horses are God’s creations and humans have no right to be inflicting this type of pain and abuse on these poor animals simply for the common “greed” of mankind. The horse racing is brutal and people that think this is just so wonderful need to be right there when the vet has to euthanize one with a broken leg or whatever to see how much pain this poor soul is going through and for what – for the payout at the god damn “windows.” You greedy bastards involved in this sport all should be in prison for animal abuse. You have no feelings what-so-ever for the horses it is always and always about the MONEY. Shut all the tracks down and stop this horse abuse in one of the worst forms.

  5. Thank-you Patrick for setting the facts straight.
    I’m super disappointed that the American Free Press, the L.A. Times, rejected your right to free speech.
    Not only are their racehorse deaths often masked or downplayed, but their claim to jobs and tax revenue is not entirely correct because it seems to cost taxpayers more money than it ever generates.
    Then the often overlooked environmental negative impact.
    For example, during the summer California residents usually have water restrictions placed on them while the horse racing industry wastes thousands of gallons of water just to water the track let alone shower thousands of racehorses, collectively, every single day.
    It takes 5000 gallons or more to water a 1 mile dirt track once around, and this is done about 3 times a day during racing which adds up to 15,000+ gallons of water per day per track.
    It’s not uncommon for 5 tracks/fairs to run during the California summer so that would be 75,000 to 100,000 gallons of water per day for a completely unnecessary gambling venue that happens to kill racehorses!!
    All of this waste for $2 bets and egos.
    This is vile and insane.

  6. Call the paper’s editorial board for an explanation of why they would not print your factual and eloquent piece. Everyone needs to read it.

  7. Thank goodness that no horses died racing today at Santa Anita.
    However, reviewing the results of this track as well as 3 others clearly shows racehorses who are suffering.
    The last 2 in every race either “bled” “came up empty” “eased” “through early” “weakened” “showed little.” etc.
    About 4 racehorses at Keeneland and Parx “stopped.”
    It’s heartbreaking to read these charts because behind these words are racehorses suffering, struggling just to get through their next race, and forced to do it.
    They are screaming out to us to help them and stopping during a race is a clear sign that the horse doesn’t want to do what it’s forced to do.
    Most, during their obvious struggling, were being beaten/whipped to perform when there was nothing left in them – how in the world can this be permitted to continue?
    2 were vanned-off today at Gulfstream, WILDCAT BLAST & DON’T QUIT – fate unknown.

  8. Thankyou Patrick for exposing the hidden truth. I trust and hope it will help to change people’s views on horseracing.

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