The willfully ignorant excepted, everyone in and around Racing knows that slaughter happens – that is, that “retired” American racehorses (of all breeds) are being shipped to foreign abattoirs to be shackled, hoisted, slashed, bled-out, and butchered for European and Asian dinner plates. While hard numbers remain elusive, the prevailing wisdom is thousands – likely tens of thousands – annually. But because of this nebulous terrain (in stark contrast to my kill lists), the racing people are able to squirm and slither their way around the issue with boasts of “zero-tolerance policies” and “aftercare programs.” Every once in a while, however, some honesty surfaces.

In a recent Paulick Report article entitled “How Do You Protect Horses After You Sell Them?” (how bout don’t sell them?), $46 million owner/breeder Maggi Moss said this:

“The anti-slaughter policies, they’re worthless. The track policies are not going to do anything at all. I’m not an extremist, I just love horses, and I have seen what is truly happening to our racehorses. What is happening is what no one wants to talk about. I have sat down with the head of The Jockey Club; I have sat down with some of the biggest owners and trainers in the country. I start talking and I promise you, they start staring at the ground. They do not want to hear it.”

“They start staring at the ground.”

The article continues:

Moss said the slaughterhouses work with facilities belonging to middle men who often are stationed within an easy drive of racetracks (she alleges one operates within 30 minutes of Churchill Downs). Moss stated that she led an undercover investigation of a kill pen in Louisiana that was used as an outlet for moving horses on to slaughter in Mexico. She described deplorable conditions and horses with their racing plates still on, some of whom still had sweat marks from racing saddles removed after competing at a Louisiana racetrack.

Moss said after publicizing her findings and alerting legislators and law enforcement, she received threats via social media… Her experience leads Moss to believe trainers use these middle men specifically so they won’t face house rule sanctions from racetracks.

What more can I add…except perhaps this reminder:










The following article, which I present in its entirety, should be required reading for all who cling to the obscenity of horseracing-as-sport.

From The Guardian, November 23 (by Andrew Stafford):

He was the horse no one had ever heard of. The undistinguished battler who never captured the nation’s heart. Indeed, he failed to capture anyone’s, except perhaps his owners, until they too fell out of love with him; their dreams of riches and reflected glory dashed.

Unlike Kingston Town, Black Caviar or Red Cadeaux, Poor Ned occupies no special place in racing history. He never even reached the track: for all the frenzied efforts of his trainers, no whisper in Poor Ned’s ear or whip on his hindquarters could spur him to go any bloody faster.

No one sent cards or flowers wishing him luck. No ashes were to be scattered at Flemington, where he never appeared. No one ever cheered him down a home straight anywhere. He never grew to be an old warrior. He was just another two-year-old nag who wasn’t good enough.

He wasn’t handsome enough for dressage and he couldn’t jump to save himself. He was too nervous for kids to ride on. Even professional jockeys found him hard work. The best that could be said about Poor Ned is that no one other than his owners ever lost money on him.

He was, in all respects, a disappointment. So his owners regretfully made the decision that, all agreed, was in their best interests. After all, he was costing them around a hundred bucks a day. And Poor Ned was high maintenance. He couldn’t cope with the stalls and he wasn’t much more docile in the stables.

He never gave anyone any joy. He competed with no distinction; in fact he was so lacking in distinction that he never competed at all. He was fragile and cranky, and no one will miss him, because no one other than his owners and handlers knew he ever existed. He served no useful purpose whatsoever.

No one ever turned out in their finest for him. No jewellery was flashed; no top hats or tails were worn; no ostentation of any kind was ever required. At least, being no peacock, he never had to put himself on display either. No one ever cooed their admiration at his perfect physique before he took to the track.

So to the knackery he went, unmourned. They led him to the kill-box and humanely euthanised him with a bullet to the head. Red Cadeaux was the third horse in two years to die after the Melbourne Cup. Poor Ned was just another horse that never made it.

There’s more where Poor Ned came from, though. About 15,000 thoroughbred foals are bred each year in this country. Some of them are bought for millions; when they fail, they might fetch a couple of hundred in the saleyards. But gambling is big business. Sometimes you have to cut your losses.

They ground Poor Ned up for dog food, but no one ever got attached enough to him to care. No one outside of his connections knew his name, and nobody in his industry’s governing body recorded his fate. He wasn’t even a statistic, because no official statistics on horse wastage are recorded.

Apparently there are roughly 10,000 Poor Neds a year. Horses that simply didn’t have the necessary fast-twitch fibres, lacked the temperament for racing, or just broke down injured. Or they were just too much trouble. 10,000 horses that the nation never stopped for.

For further reading, please see my 2013 post “From Wastage to Dinner Plate”.

Below, aftercare for an anonymous erstwhile athlete – a has-been, or, like Poor Ned, a never-was. (While this scene comes from Australia, the prevailing wisdom is that most “retired” American racehorses meet a similar end.)

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Fact: If not for the corporate welfare it receives in the form of slots revenue, much of American racing would collapse. Particularly hard hit would be the harness end. Currently, there are 14 harness tracks in NY, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. In my estimation, all 14 would vanish – virtually overnight – without their subsidies. Simply put, the good old days of the 20th Century when racing enjoyed a practical monopoly on legalized gambling are gone forever. The competition (full-service casinos, state lotteries) is killing them. In Illinois, horsemen have been crying for a legislative lifeline for years – to no avail. I have twice previously written on this:

“Illinois Should Let Racing Fail” (October ’13)

“Illinois, Let Racing Fail” (October ’14)

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And now, it appears my hope is coming to pass. Almost 70 years after it first opened for business, Maywood Park shuttered its betting windows this past Friday; Balmoral, Illinois’ only other harness track, is slated to close by year’s end. Good news, indeed. Predictably, not all feel the same. In an NBC Chicago article from last week, the horse people warn of terrible things to come. Some excerpts:

Trainer Angie Coleman: “They [families who live on the backstretch] are going to lose their home. These kids are not going to have school. They are going to be displaced.”

Illinois Racing Board Commissioner Kathy Byrne: “It’s a crisis of decency. These people need to be treated decently.”

Coleman: “It’s very much a reality [that some horses will eventually go to slaughter].” Worse, says Byrne – “sound, healthy horses.”

“Worried” trainer Hosea Williams is even more definitive: “Yes, yes there will be horse slaughter involved.”

Although the article adds the perfunctory counter at the end – “executives at the Illinois Racing Board strongly disagree that any horses will go to slaughter” – the damage had already been done. To read this piece of (what now seems the norm) media sensationalism is to comprehend a terrible injustice perpetrated by the Illinois government, an injustice that will leave families homeless and horses butchered.

First, as unfortunate as it is for people to lose their jobs, this is America; businesses and industries come and go all the time. It is not up to government (the taxpayers) to artificially prop the losers – in this case, Illinois Racing (including increasingly precarious Arlington and Hawthorne). Move on. Second, and most abhorrently, the racing industry – both in Illinois and across the nation – has been intentionally sending horses to slaughter for decades. The battered? Sure. But healthy ones, too.

So spare us the inflammatory rhetoric, the deceptions – the lies. For racers to conjure up images of slaughterbound Standardbreds this way, for this reason, is obscene. In truth, it’s but one final exploitation of these hapless animals. Shame, too, falls to the news station (full article here), for this “report” is more than just poorly researched and unbalanced, it is irresponsible.

According to the Equine Welfare Alliance, last year 146,548 American horses were slaughtered in foreign abattoirs. A “Wild for Life Foundation” study (2002-2010) found that on average 19% of the slaughterbound are Thoroughbreds. Even if we were to use a lower percentage (the racing industry, of course, claims 19% is too high) – say, 13% – the number of Thoroughbreds who departed via slaughter last year practically matches the Jockey Club’s estimated “foal crop” (20,300).

And this is no aberration:

2013: 152,814 American horses slaughtered; 13% = 19,865; “foal crop” 21,275

2012: 176,223 American horses slaughtered; 13% = 22,908; “foal crop” 21,725

2011: 133,241 American horses slaughtered; 13% = 17,321; “foal crop” 22,610

Think of Racing as a revolving door – room must constantly be made for the incoming batch. And since the industry is clearly not expanding, at the very least it’s a one-to-one trade-off – each arrival comes with an exit. All of which leads to this likely conclusion: The great majority of spent Thoroughbreds are being slaughtered. (The same can probably be said for Quarterhorse and Standardbred racehorses.)

To remind:










A recent press release (Paulick Report): “Famous jockeys and a host of other sports celebrities will gather at Indiana Grand Racing & Casino on Saturday, May 30 to honor five severely injured former riders and raise funds for the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund at the second annual Jockeys and Jeans.”

While I’m certainly not hardened to the suffering of these jockeys and their families, I can’t help but wonder where the star-studded benefits are for the horses. I mean, when your primary aftercare program involves exsanguination, one would think that the Racing elite would be in some sort of heightened crisis mode. Alas, not.

So the next time an apologist starts waxing poetic about “The Sport of Kings” and its majestic equine “athletes,” ask him how it is that most of those athletes end up brutally slaughtered – and why no one seems to care. Truth is, if that aforementioned elite wanted to end racehorse slaughter, they could, virtually overnight. They could stop overbreeding; they could create industry owned/operated, open-to-the-public sanctuaries; they could hold all who were ever a part of a racehorse’s life, from breeder down to most recent connections, financially responsible for that horse’s post-racing care. They could – but they don’t. And that is horseracing.

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