Back in December, the Daily Racing Form ran an article entitled “Symposium attendees hear strategies on avoiding dog racing’s fate.” It began thus: “One of the topics being discussed among racing officials over the past two days outside the conference rooms at the University of Arizona Symposium on Racing and Gaming is whether the recent popular vote in Florida to ban dog racing could happen to horse racing in one or more states soon. And many of those racing officials are now acknowledging openly that they are increasingly anxious that it could.”

Two years ago, this same symposium hosted a panel on how best to combat protesters at racetracks – a direct result of our success at Saratoga that summer. At the time, I wrote how sensibilities toward animal exploitation, especially regarding “entertainment,” are changing, and I mentioned Ringling elephants being “retired,” SeaWorld ending its captive-breeding of orcas, and the word “vegan” no longer sounding so alien. Since, more progress:

May 2017 – Ringling Bros. closes shop for good, ending 146 years of animal abuse

Aug 2017 – Illinois becomes first state to ban the use of elephants for entertainment

Oct 2017 – New York becomes the second

Mar 2019 – The city of Los Angeles stands ready to ban rodeos

And, as mentioned in the quote above, the November referendum vote in Florida that will end greyhound racing in that state by the end of next year. (Florida, a state that cannot seem to definitively agree on anything, passed this by over 2-1.) This one cannot be overstated. Florida is home to 11 of the final 17 dogtracks in the nation. When this ban is fully effected (some tracks have already closed, ahead of the deadline), greyhound racing in America will be in its death throes. Truly historic, and for that we owe the lion’s share of gratitude to Grey2K, a group we’ve long admired.

In addition: The National Aquarium will release all its remaining dolphins to a sanctuary by 2020; SeaWorld is still in decline; animal “actors” are ever-increasingly being replaced by CGI; and veganism grows annually – one study has the number of U.S. consumers identifying as vegan increasing some 600% between 2014 and 2017.

Economically, Floridians had grown weary of propping up the moribund dogracing industry with subsidies. And this, though maybe not to the exact same extent, is the horseracing story. Most of U.S. horseracing – including almost all of the harness variety – receives corporate welfare; I’m fully confident that once the public understands this, like Florida with dogracing, the tide will turn. In other words, that “increasing anxiety” within racing circles is well-founded.

But above all, this is a moral matter, and as the above clearly illustrates, those winds, as they are wont to do, are blowing in but one direction. How can horseracing “avoid dogracing’s fate”? Short answer: It can’t; it won’t. But it’s not enough to simply say that, to passively wait for the demographics to do their thing (horseracing is a middle-aged man’s “sport”; the younger generations, on the whole, eschew it), for horses are suffering and dying now; they need our action now.

In the spring of 1865, with Lee’s army and the Confederacy hanging by a thread, President Lincoln was not content to just wait it out. In a famous telegram to General Grant, he wrote: “Gen. Sheridan says ‘If the thing is pressed I think that Lee will surrender.’ Let the thing be pressed.”

Let the thing be pressed.

In the wake of 23 dead horses since Christmas, Santa Anita cancelled racing yesterday and is closed indefinitely. But let’s identify this for what it is: marketing-101 damage-control, nothing more, nothing less. After being hammered in the media – practically every major outlet in the country has covered the killing – and after a big HW-sponsored protest there this past Sunday (with more to come), the suits of California Racing are scrambling. But to be clear, this move is not because they think the track (weather) is the culprit or that further “testing” (“Orono Biomechanical Surface Tester” – please) will do any good. Nor is it because they care about the deaths in and of themselves, for if they did, they would have shut down – permanently – long ago.

According to official CHRB statistics, in the 11-year period 7/1/07-6/30/18 Santa Anita averaged 50 dead racehorses annually. And it’s not as if one or two bad years skewed that average: Every 12-month period but one (’10-’11, when “only” 37 died) saw at least 40 corpses. What’s more, 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. Now, consider this comment by the board chairman kicking off the most recent annual report:

“The year 2018 was a good one for California racing in many ways, but the clear highlight was the progress we have made in reducing equine fatalities at racetracks and training facilities. Admittedly, even one death of a racehorse is too many, but it is a sign of progress that the industry is finding solutions to a problem that for far too long has perplexed all of us who care deeply about the safety and welfare of horses.”

As I’ve oft-written (Saratoga ’17, Del Mar ’16), this is not a multi-billion dollar industry for nothing. They’re quite adept at controlling the story, assuring an increasingly uneasy public (regarding animal exploitation in general) that they’re on top of this – that “even one death of a racehorse is too many.” Well, facts, as the great John Adams famously said, are stubborn things. And the facts here say, unequivocally, that the current killing season is no anomaly – no “blip on the radar,” as the CHRB’s Dr. Rick Arthur called it. Rather, it’s business as usual, here – and everywhere.

“Progress,” as imagined by the California Horse Racing Board:

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-March 2019 31 dead racehorses at Santa Anita Park

July 1, 2007-March 5, 2019 584 dead racehorses at Santa Anita Park

Horseracing kills horses. Always has. Always will. And that’s all you need to know.

The following is being sent to every Pennsylvania legislator in the newly-convened 2019 Pennsylvania General Assembly. Please read and share, and also please consider contacting members on your own. Thank you.

I am writing today in the hope that you might reconsider the subsidies being paid to your state’s horseracing industry. I am arguing this on two levels: First, propping up individual industries runs counter to America’s free-market principles. Myriad trades have come and gone in our nation’s history (horse-and-buggy), with winners and losers determined by the merits of, and relative demand for, one’s goods and services. It should not be in government’s purview to keep unwanted – as decided by the market – businesses afloat. To that, here are some pertinent facts:

Horseracing is clearly in decline: Since 2000, U.S. Racing has suffered a net loss of 34 tracks; all other metrics – racedays, races, “fields,” “foal crop,” and, yes, attendance and handle – are also down. The public is speaking – unequivocally – with its wallet.

With the ubiquity of stand-alone casinos and state lotteries (and soon, all-sports betting), Racing has cried foul, claiming that these new businesses are somehow unfair to them. In fact, prior to the advent of lottery products, Horseracing enjoyed a virtual monopoly – for decades – on legal gambling. Now that was unfair.

In Pennsylvania, according to a 2017 report, the racing industry has received $2.6 billion in corporate welfare over the past decade – $239 million in ’17 alone. Referring to this, The Philadelphia Inquirer, in an editorial, wrote, “If multiple billions can’t turn around an industry, isn’t it time we asked how much longer we’re willing to try before altering the arrangement?” (see also, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette editorial)

Far more important, however, is the moral aspect to all this. In short, horseracing kills horses – lots of them. Through my seminal FOIA reporting, I have determined that upward of 2,000 horses are killed racing or training on U.S. tracks every year – easily six per day; to date, I have documented over 5,000 confirmed kills on my website – cardiovascular collapse, pulmonary hemorrhage, blunt-force head trauma; shattered limbs, ruptured ligaments, broken necks, crushed spines.

In addition, likely just as many die from what the industry craftily calls “non-racing causes” – colic, laminitis, “found dead in stall.” In truth, however, these horses are no less casualties than the ones who snap legs on raceday. And perhaps worst of all, the vast majority of “retired” racehorses end up brutally and violently slaughtered when deemed no longer profitable – some 20,000 or more annually. In a word, carnage.

But it’s even worse. While active, life for the typical racehorse is mean and cruel:

From birth, racehorses are pieces of property – chattel. They are bought, sold, traded, and dumped whenever and however their people decide – a stressful, tenuous existence that in and of itself causes pain and suffering: According to the Pennsylvania 2016 FOIA documents, to date the most detailed I have received, virtually every one of the dead horses died with ulcers, most “extensive to severe.”

Racehorses are kept locked in tiny stalls for over 23 hours a day, making a heartrending mockery of the industry claim that horses are “born to run, love to run.”

Racehorses are kept utterly isolated from their peers – an extra layer of cruelty for naturally social, herd-oriented animals.

Racehorses are (obviously) nonconsensually drugged and doped – incessantly injected with myriad performance-enhancing, injury-masking, and pain-numbing chemicals.

Racehorses are utterly controlled and subjugated for the entire length of their “careers.” Indeed, the “race” itself can only be effected through force: nose chains, mouth bits, and, of course, perched humans wielding whips.

In summary, not only is your state diverting much-needed funding for education and other public-good projects to a dying industry, but, in a cruel twist, taxpayers, the vast majority of whom have zero interest in horseracing, are subsidizing unconscionable cruelty and wholesale killing. While we would love to see a day when horseracing is banned (like dogracing), for now we are simply asking that the market be allowed to do what it is designed to do. Please do not fall prey to their talk of lost jobs and economic havoc. Horseracing, unlike, perhaps, some other industries (agriculture, banking), is not too big or essential to fail. And if allowed, failure will bring the added benefit of collective moral advancement, as countless horses will henceforth be spared lives of immense suffering and horrible deaths. Thank you.

Patrick Battuello, Founder and President, Horseracing Wrongs

As I’ve frequently written, much of U.S. Horseracing hangs by a thread. The anachronistic “Sport of Kings” can’t compete with its 21st Century rivals – lotteries, full-service casinos, and now, all-sports betting. And so, because they’re losing the (free-market) fight, the horse people turn to government for what they consider, and promulgate as, redress. (Never mind that for most of the 20th Century, Horseracing enjoyed a virtual monopoly on legal gambling.) And if nothing else, Racing excels at lobbying for state largess – subsidies. New Jersey offers but the latest example.

A WHYY article from earlier this week opens thus:

“New Jersey lawmakers are considering doling out $100 million over five years to prop up the state’s financially-strapped horse racing industry, which has continued to struggle despite beginning to offer sports betting this summer.”

Article quotes from apologists are all too familiar:

“This will be a huge help for the horse racing industry that is an important part of New Jersey’s heritage and culture and a key source of jobs and economic activity.” – state Sen. Vin Gopal, co-sponsor of the bill

“If you look at [the equine industry] as a pyramid, horse racing is at the top and pretty much supports everything from the pleasure industry to the agricultural industry.” – A.J. Sabath, Standardbred Breeders and Owners Association of NJ

“Heritage.” “Culture.” “Jobs.” “Economic activity.” Blah, blah, blah.

Look, this is not complicated. The masses prefer, by far, the other-than-horseracing gambling options. For proof, go to any racino (combination racetrack/casino), especially ones attached to harness tracks. The slots rooms are buzzing; the track is a virtual morgue. Why, then, does government continue to take extraordinary measures to save Racing? Certainly not because it is too big or essential to fail. Rather, one side, their side, has an almost exclusive access to the political movers and shakers and is able to frame the argument in a way – by invoking jobs and the economy – that practically compels pols to vote in its favor. That’s why it’s imperative we be heard:

– share this and all I’ve written on Horseracing and the public teat

sign this petition regarding the above proposal

contact the NJ Senate Majority Leader and let her know that this cannot stand

Unfortunately, it’s not enough to change hearts and minds, for even if we were to turn 95% of the population against this vile industry, as long as the welfare continues to flow, horses will continue to suffer and die. In short, friends, this is a two-front war.

We posted the following petition yesterday on change.org. We see this as another effective tool, a fine addition to an already formidable arsenal (protests, tabling, speaking engagements, media interviews, editorials, and, of course, this very website). And the beauty here is in its simplicity – sign and share. That’s it. Sign and share…

For far too long, horseracing has been given cover under the banner of sport, indeed “The Sport of Kings.” In truth, however, it is no such thing. If you dig deeper, if you look beyond the mint juleps and bugle calls, you’ll see that horseracing, at its most basic level, is but a simple vehicle for gambling. $2 bets. The “pampered athlete,” too, is a grotesque lie, for life for the typical racehorse is ugly and mean:

Commodification: Racehorses are literal chattel, pieces of property to be bought, sold, traded, and dumped whenever and however their owners decide.

Subjugation: The horse people thoroughly control every moment of their assets’ lives – control effected through, among other things, lip tattoos, nose chains, metal mouth-bits, and leather whips. Force and power; domination of a weaker species.

Drugging and Doping: Racehorses are injected, legally and otherwise, with myriad substances to enhance performance, mask injury, and numb pain. The horseman’s credo: Keep ’em earning, by any means necessary.

Confinement and Isolation: In perhaps the worst of it all, racehorses are locked in tiny stalls for over 23 hours a day, making a mockery of the industry claim that horses are born to run, love to run. As if not enough, these naturally social, herd-oriented animals are, as babes, forever torn from their families and, except for brief moments on the track itself or while in transport, kept utterly isolated. In a word, heartrending.

Death: Since 2009, when the Gaming Commission began to make these things public, over 1,300 racehorses have died at New York tracks – an average of 138 every year. But that’s just onsite. How many more of the “catastrophically injured” were euthanized back at the owner’s farm? How many more, still, killed at private training facilities? Nationally, Horseracing Wrongs, primarily through our unprecedented FOIA reporting, has documented over 5,000 confirmed deaths; we estimate that over 2,000 horses are killed racing or training on U.S. tracks annually. Pulmonary hemorrhage, head trauma, “sudden cardiac event.” Shattered limbs, ruptured ligaments, broken necks, crushed spines. What’s more, countless other still-active racehorses succumb to colic, laminitis, “barn accidents,” or are simply “found dead” in their stalls.

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.

Horseracing is in decline, and has been for some time: Since 2000, U.S. Racing has suffered a net loss of 34 tracks; all other metrics – racedays, races, fields, “foal crop,” and, yes, attendance and handle – are also down. Moreover, a majority of tracks – including 9 of NY’s 11 – are being wholly propped up by subsidies – corporate welfare. Clearly, lotteries and independent casinos are winning the market, but politicians, swayed by industry talk of lost jobs and economic havoc should it be allowed to fail, keep sending lifeboats. It is unfair and horses continue to suffer (and die) for it.

Sensibilities toward animal exploitation are rapidly changing, most especially regarding entertainment. Ringling Bros. is no more; Greyhound Racing will soon be; SeaWorld, owing mostly to the film “Blackfish,” has ended its captive-breeding program for orcas; and, as you know, it will soon be illegal to use elephants for any form of entertainment in NYS. Why can’t, why shouldn’t, racehorses be next?

Governor Cuomo, be bold, set an example for the rest of the nation by moving our collective morality forward. End the cruelty. End the suffering. End the killing.

End horseracing.