This post first appeared on Care2.com
In “A Day at the Saratoga Race Course: 10 Ways to feel like an Insider” that published on NYup.com, readers are advised to take in at least one race at the finish line because “…not only can you try to spy celebrities in the clubhouse off to the right, it’s a great place to experience the race – the guy with the bugle, the roaring crowd, the straining jockeys, the thundering hooves of the horses.”
I agree that racegoers should pay close attention to the homestretch. Not to experience the excitement of the chase but to see how jockeys thank horses for running their hearts out by whipping them 15 to 20 times before they reach the finish line. As for those who enjoyed the races at Saratoga Springs this summer, I would like them to consider that 19 horses died. They included Angels Seven who was pulled up in the race due to an injury to the left front leg and was euthanized on the track; Brooklyn Major who collapsed and died after the finish of a race; and Fall Colors who fell at the second fence and died on the track. Horse racing is not a sport it’s the exploitation of animals for entertainment and profit.
Horses are dying at racetracks all over the United States
Horseracing Wrongs, an organization working to end horse racing through education and grassroots activism in the US, estimates that upward of 2,000 horses die while racing or training on American racetracks annually. Where did this number come from?
Each year Patrick Battuello, founder of Horseracing Wrongs, sends Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests to state racing commissions for lists of horses that have died at racetracks. His blog lists all of the racehorses that were “killed in action” since 2014. The sources for these lists include FOIA documents, Equibase, NYS Gaming Commission database, California Horse Racing Board Stewards Minutes, direct confirmations from track officials and racing press. To date, nobody has ever disputed the death of horses listed on the Horseracing Wrongs website.
As shocking as these numbers are they only include on-site deaths and not the “catastrophically injured” horses who were euthanized back at the farm or at a rescue facility. In addition, several states – California and Kentucky among them – rejected Battuello’s FOIA request so those numbers are also not included.
Longtime animal rights advocate Battuello grew up attending races at Saratoga Springs. He understands that the track is a huge part of the summer social scene in upstate New York. But he also believes that it’s time to end the tradition of horse racing nationwide.
“Horses are dying for $2 bets,” Battuello said. “This is wrong. Horse racing is not a sport it’s a gambling business. There’s no place for horse racing in 21st Century America.”
In a plea to bettors on his blog – and on signs held up during protests outside racetracks – Battuello asks them to reconsider their actions:
In a landscape that abounds with other gambling options – casinos, lotteries, real sports involving autonomous human beings – hasn’t the time at long last arrived to let the racing horse be? You, the bettor, has within the capacity for mercy. We ask only that you exercise it. Please. For the horses.
There are people who say that a few bad apples have given the “sport” of racing a bad name and that it just needs to be cleaned up. To those people, Battuello responds “…the simple truth is that the maiming and destruction of race horses are inherent to the industry. Death at the track is, always has been, and always will be an inevitable part of racing.”
What’s wrong with Horse Racing at a Glance:
- The Pounding of Unformed Bodies: The typical horse does not reach full musculoskeletal maturity till around six; the typical racehorse begins “training” at 18 months and is raced at two – or the rough equivalent of a kindergartner.
- The Killing: Horseracing Wrongs estimates that upward of 2,000 horses die while racing or training on American racetracks annually.
The Extreme Confinement: Most active racehorses are kept isolated in small stalls 23 hours a day, making a mockery of the industry claim that their horses are born to run, love to run. No affection, no stimulation – just an existence.
- The Whipping: What happens openly at the track would qualify as animal cruelty if done to our pets. (Those who support whipping to “encourage” the horses to go faster say horses don’t really feel the whip because they are “thick-skinned.” In fact, a 2015 study by Lydia Tong, an Australian forensic veterinary pathologist, found evidence that horses are not as “thick-skinned” as many believe, raising questions around whip use. “The horse epidermis – the very top-most layer of skin where the pain sensing nerves are found – was actually thinner than the human epidermis,” Tong told Catalyst, an Australian science show screened on ABC.)
- The Commodification: Most racehorses are bought and sold several times over during the course of their “careers” – traded and treated like common Amazon products.
- The Drugging and Doping: Racehorses are injected with various drugs – some legal, some not – with a singular goal: to keep them running, even though pain and injury.Source: Horseracing Wrongs
What you can do to help racehorses:
- Visit the Horseracing Wrongs website and sign up for emails to stay current on the deaths and abuse of racehorses. Then reach out and spread the word through social media. Horse racing tracks will only start to close down when there’s a lack of interest.
- Write letters to editors letting them know that upwards of 2,000 horses are dying on American tracks each year.
- In addition to not betting and not buying tickets to races don’t go to racinos (combined racetracks and casinos) because the profits from these racinos help support the racing industry. If you want to gamble and don’t want your money to go to a cruel and exploitative industry, go to a standalone casino.