Interview:Horseracing Wrongs with Patrick Battuello

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Horseracing Wrongs with Patrick Battuello

Yvonne Luscombe speaks with Patrick Battuello from Horseracing Wrongs.

May 11, 2023

Horseracing Wrongs was founded by Patrick Battuello in 2013
Horseracing Wrongs was founded by Patrick Battuello in 2013. Photo: Horseracing Wrongs

Yvonne: How did Horseracing Wrongs get going and how did you start doing things very differently than other people?

Patrick: So, I wrote an animal rights blog for my local newspaper in upstate New York around 2012-2013. As I researched various animal-related issues, I came across horse racing in America, and two things stood out to me. Firstly, there was a lack of information about how many horses were dying at American tracks and under what circumstances. Secondly, there were no organizations, big or small, focused on race horses. We had protests for circuses, animal testing for factory farming, and even greyhound racing, but no groups dedicated to race horses.

Realizing this void in the animal rights community, I decided to step up and fill it, even though I didn't have a horse background. My knowledge of horse racing was limited to being a sports fan when I was younger, and I had watched a few races, including the famous Triple Crown race where a horse named "Seattle Slew" participated. I was also aware of Secretariat.

To become knowledgeable about the horse racing industry, I had to learn as I went. Luckily, I connected with some great people throughout America who mentored me, and I peppered them with questions about horses. Over the years, I have become an expert on the horse racing industry by finding factual information.

Yvonne: I grew up being taken for family days with my parents who took me to the races. I enjoyed watching movies such as Secretariat and Far Lap, but over the past decade, I have realized that Far Lap is a very sad story, and there are issues within the horse racing industry. Perhaps those of us who are not raised within the industry can see things more objectively, while those who are immersed in it may become jaded.

Patrick: We still find people who hate horse racing but grew up as fans and have a hard time shaking it. Despite disliking what's going on, they still enjoy watching the animals run, especially during the Triple Crown season. Personally, I didn't have that background. I live in upstate New York, about a half-hour away from Saratoga Racecourse, one of the country's top tracks. When I was younger, I went there a few times during college, but only for social reasons - it was the place to be in the summer, not because I was interested in betting.

When I started filing Freedom of Information Act requests with racing commissions around the country, I wanted very specific information on horses who died or were euthanized at each state's tracks. I wanted full necropsy reports if possible. I'm very fact-based, so I knew I needed to come armed with data when going up against the massive horse racing industry. A dead horse is a dead horse, and there's no denying it. When we started receiving this information, even I was shocked at the scale of the killing.

Horseracing Wrongs estimate that over 2,000 horses are killed at US racetracks every year - about six every day.
Horseracing Wrongs estimate that over 2,000 horses are killed at US racetracks every year - about six every day.

We estimate that over 2,000 horses are killed at US racetracks every year - about six every day. This number doesn't include horses that die during training or those that are simply discarded. The estimate covers all track deaths, whether from racing, training, or otherwise. When incorporating these numbers with those from the slaughterhouse, we estimate that between 10 and 15,000 American racehorses are sent to Canada and Mexico for slaughter. I use the word "carnage" to describe what's happening in the American horse racing industry. I've been using this term for years, and no one in the industry has seriously challenged me on it. They know the situation is dire.

Yvonne: The situation is truly terrible. I've even witnessed the slaughter that takes place across the border in Mexico. I forced myself to watch it, though it's not a secret - anyone can easily find a PETA video or other footage online.

Patrick: Right. I don't know how many horses are getting slaughtered in Canada, as they have a large live export market to Japan. Unfortunately, in Mexico, there are not many laws for humane slaughter.

Yvonne: When people say that these horses are treated like royalty, with lovely stables, it's important to note a couple of things. Firstly, a horse rarely wants to be confined to a stable - it's essentially a box or a cage. Horses are social animals that thrive in herds, so it's not their natural habitat. Secondly, many of these horses walk straight out of those stables and onto slaughter trucks, don't they?

Patrick: Yes, and you hit the nail on the head. For me, the worst part of horse racing is not the deaths, which is an entirely different conversation, but the confinement. These are herd animals that are locked in a 12 by 12 box for 23 hours a day, which I see as inherently cruel as an animal rights activist. I reached out to a nationally known animal behaviorist, Nick Dodman, who validated my feelings about confinement. He said that it is the worst thing that happens to these horses and compared it to the terrible distress suffered by humans kept in solitary confinement in prisons. The horses display clear signs of mental and emotional anguish such as stereotypies, bobbing, swaying, kicking, digging, self-mutilation, wind sucking, and cribbing. This goes on day after day, month after month, year after year, which is their life, and it is horrible. Even if all possible reforms were implemented, and the number of horse deaths was reduced, the confinement alone would still make horse racing inherently cruel, and it cannot be fixed or reformed. Horse racing must end because the confinement cannot be addressed, and these animals will always be kept locked up like that. The scale of it is unacceptable, and even if the deaths were taken entirely out of the equation, the confinement alone is enough to make it so.

Yvonne: I recently came across a racing yard for sale in this country. It belonged to a very well-known group one leading trainer. I was quite shocked to read that there were around a hundred stables on a four-acre site.

Patrick: Yes it's horrible, truly horrible to think of those horses in there.

Yvonne: I recall observing a small training yard belonging to another trainer some time ago. Given the limited number of horses, it was clear that the owner was concerned about their weight and rightly discouraged overeating of grass. Interestingly, the trainer had installed a track system walkway that allowed horses to exercise for a couple of hours each day without the temptation of indulging in excess grass. Also, the young horses were given an opportunity to frolic about on their own, which was heartening to see. However, despite such measures, how could it compensate for the fact that these animals were being ridden at a tender age of three, when their bones and spine, the last to develop, typically take six years to mature fully. There was a horse last week who broke their leg the bone was actually sticking out.

Patrick: Indeed, Yvonne, it is a common occurrence that we witness frequently. Regrettably, due to the media's influence, there is an overemphasis on drugs in American horse racing, which has also influenced public perception.

Yvonne: That's something that we don't get in the UK.

Patrick: The suggestion is that horse racing can be made acceptable by cleaning up the sport like baseball did with steroids. However, the primary reason why horses die in such alarming numbers is due to their unformed bodies. Horses are essentially still babies for years, and their bones and growth plates are not fully formed until they reach six years of age. The slower the development, the higher up the horse's body, such as the spine and neck, which are the last to mature. Unfortunately, these horses are raced and subjected to intensive training as early as 18 months old, equivalent to a six-year-old child on the maturation chart. In 2019, a prominent equine vet testified alongside advocates before the New York State Senate, explaining that these horses are essentially going straight to the "Super Bowl" with early intensive grinding of their immature bodies. Full necropsy reports from states like Maryland, Kentucky, and California consistently reveal that even two or three-year-old horses, which are pubescent and adolescent, die from chronic conditions like osteoarthritis and degenerative joint disease in all four limbs, despite having raced fewer than a dozen times. Drugs come into play to control inflammation and pain, but the main cause of death is the way these immature horses are rushed to the track. It is unlikely that the industry will wait until horses are five or six to begin training and racing them because it is cost-prohibitive. Therefore, the inevitability of death at the track primarily refers to the intense early grinding of these unformed, immature bodies.

Yvonne: Can you tell us about the drugs used in American racing because you know when I've seen a race card and I've seen this horse is on I'm saying Lasix would that be right?

Patrick: Regarding Lasix, it is a common drug used in horse racing. However, it is worth examining how drugs became part of the sport in the US. Firstly, we need to differentiate between drugging and doping. Drugging involves administering overdoses of legal medications, such as Bute, which is used for inflammation.

Phenylbutazone (Bute) s a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug for the short-term treatment of pain and fever in animals.
Phenylbutazone (Bute) s a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug for the short-term treatment of pain and fever in animals.

Bute is a commonly used drug for horses, likened to aspirin for humans. However, if there is too much Bute in a horse's system, it would trigger a penalty as it is considered drugging. Doping involves illegal drugs like cocaine, caffeine, and Viagra, but is less common than drugging.

Lasix is an interesting topic as it has been historically used in North America and Canada, and up to 98% of all starters have been given Lasix. It is supposedly used to control pulmonary hemorrhage, but some within racing believe that it is also used as a performance enhancer. The horse sheds water weight before the race, making it lighter and therefore faster. Regardless, it is an indictment of horse racing. If Lasix is a performance enhancer, then withholding water from the horse prior to the race is cruel. If it is controlling pulmonary hemorrhage, then it calls into question the fundamental activity of horse racing.

Yvonne: It doesn't make any sense, does it? The last thing an athlete needs is to sweat and not have enough hydration, because muscles can't work without hydration, and the body functions can't work without it. Athletes would take a drink to stay hydrated and get electrolytes, I guess. So, it would be interesting to know how many deaths are attributed to that drug.

Patrick: As I said, the vast majority of horses are on Lasix, but I don't think that plays a significant role in the horses dying. What I write about Lasix, and have in the past, is to point out that it's an indictment either way. Whether it is truly therapeutic or not, it's an indictment. Imagine if throwing a football or kicking a soccer ball or a football in your case, or throwing a baseball caused the athlete pain and discomfort suffering, because that's what bleeding in the lungs does to a horse. It's absurd that you would need to control that pain. Either way, Lasix is bad for horse racing. Unfortunately, there is too much attention paid to drugs overall, and not enough on these other facts, such as osteoarthritis and degenerative joint disease. How do you justify that? How do you defend a two-year-old horse dying? That's not the reason he died, by the way. He broke a leg or snapped his neck, or whatever the proximate cause of death was. But along with that, they noted in the necropsy that he was suffering from osteoarthritis. It's insane. There's no other word for it.

Yvonne: The over-the-boarder slaughter in America is notorious. In the UK, racehorses are not supposed to be slaughtered with a passport, but they are flown abroad and slaughtered there. For example Ireland exports horses, . Do you have any knowledge of improvements or any government support in this area?

Patrick: They're not improving in a meaningful manner. That said, there are people who are staffing these racing commissions who are good, genuine, compassionate people. I've talked to several who are really trying to do a good job for the horses and be watchdogs. But there's nothing significant that could be done to make this better. That's why we have an unequivocal line here: horse racing is cruel, and it must end. It's no different from dog racing in regards to how the animals are treated. In fact, I argue that horse racing is worse because of slaughter. And yet, here in America, there are just two dog tracks left in the entire country, both in West Virginia. Even more telling, it's prohibited on moral grounds by law in 42 states. It's significant, and the other form of racing gets this cover under the banner of "sport," the "sport of kings." The Kentucky Derby was just run, the "most exciting two minutes in sports," again sold to us as a sport. And that's why our main focus as advocates with the public is to try to get people to approach this with fresh legs, look at this objectively, reasonably, listen to what we're saying. And I'm confident that if they do, they'll see this for what it is: simple animal exploitation and not a sport at all.

Over the past five years, Churchill Downs has lost 126 horses, an average of 25 a year, according to the Racing Commission in Kentucky
"Over the past five years, Churchill Downs has lost 126 horses, an average of 25 a year, according to the Racing Commission in Kentucky."

Yvonne: Was it six or seven horses died in the last week for the big race and I think the favourite was scratched out of the race wasn't it?

Patrick: Yes, so Churchill Downs, one of the top tracks in the country, had seven horse deaths in ten days. When I was fielding media requests, the first thing I said was that the cluster itself, seven in ten days, is unusual. However, death at Churchill Downs, or any track for that matter, is not uncommon. Over the past five years, Churchill Downs has lost 126 horses, an average of 25 a year, according to the Racing Commission in Kentucky. Currently, a little over four months into the new year, there are seven horse deaths, so they are right on course to hit their historical average of 25. It's really important that people understand that this happens every single day. As I mentioned, roughly six horses die at American tracks every single day.

Yvonne: I take it that American tracks haven't reduced in number are they closing?

Patrick: That's a great question. Many people ask us if we can't end horse racing because it's too big and it's better to work with the industry to improve things. I say, look, it's already contracting. Since 2000, 41 tracks have closed in America, and only three new ones have opened, and those are only because they're heavily subsidized by taxpayers, which is another part of the story. Roughly 75% of the tracks in America are being propped up by corporate welfare. If not for that money, those tracks would have closed years ago. The full crop, which is the number of new thoroughbreds that are registered to race each year with the Jockey Club, is roughly a third of what it was in 1986. All other metrics: race days, races, field sizes, handle (the amount wagered on horse racing) are down, and attendance is clearly down. So it's already happening as we speak; it's contracting. Obviously, tracks like Churchill Downs and Saratoga, the Triple Crown tracks, will be the last to go, but I have no doubt that we are heading in the right direction.

Yvonne: I don't know if this is still true, but I remember watching a UK horse racing program a few years ago and they said that it was different for jockeys and some stable staff in America. They were actually paid only when the horse won or the horse got placed. I wonder if that added pressure to be harder on the horses. What about the human element in this?

Patrick: I don't think that's the case, Yvonne. I believe that they get paid regardless. I don't talk much about the human aspect simply because they are autonomous human beings who have a choice, and the horses do not. That's not to say that I don't have sympathy for an injured jockey. In fact, I just had a phone call with a law firm in California representing a jockey who was paralyzed from a fall from the chest down. The jockey actually recommended to his attorneys to contact me because I had reported on that death. Of course, I have sympathy for these people and for the people who work on the back stretches of these tracks. We get that question a lot: what about all the jobs that are at stake if you get your wish? They can do other jobs.

Yvonne: I changed jobs twice in my life many people change jobs far more often.

Patrick: I say look, my grandfathers were both Italian immigrants. They didn't have an education, they didn't know the language. So when they came here, they took whatever jobs they could find. They taught me and my siblings work ethic and I respect that. I respect the people who work on the back stretch. But the fact of the matter is, the vast majority of those jobs are not good. They're not well-paid. So I always go back to this: though we're talking about jobs in relation to the horse racing industry, first off, their numbers are wildly inflated. They throw out ridiculous numbers as far as how many jobs are at stake. But the tracks are sitting on valuable real estate that can and will be redeveloped. I've got a page on the site talking about how these tracks, for the past 20 years that have closed and what they've become, and all kinds of jobs were created in the wake of those tracks closing. That's the capitalist system, correct? There's one door closes, another one opens. But I always bring it back, and I did get this question, by the way, at the New York State Senate. The senator was representing the Saratoga region, of course, and she was talking about all those jobs that were at stake. And this is how I closed it. I said, 'But ultimately each of us needs to answer this simple question: Do you think it's wrong that we are abusing and killing horses?' And there's no question that we are abusing and killing horses for lousy two-dollar bets. And if you say, 'Yes, I do think that's wrong,' then I'm sorry, but money and jobs have no place in the conversation. And she really didn't have a retort to that.

Yvonne: Sometimes I wonder if you stood outside a racetrack and instead of saying, "Look, people, will you please take pity on the horses and everything else," if you just said, "You know, have a lovely day. How many do you mind dying today?" Really, it's that line, isn't it? I think people have forgotten to have a line that they think, "Actually, no, that's too much," and especially when it comes to horses.

Patrick: Unfortunately, I think you're right. You know, when we're up at Saratoga, mostly there are guys who have been drinking and they'll be real obnoxious. They'll be laughing at our signs. We'll have a sign that says "12 horses have died here already this summer" and they start laughing. And it's hard not to engage, especially when they're being obnoxious like that and laughing about animal suffering. We're never going to reach people like them, you know? But our target, especially up in Saratoga, are the families. Because, again, like I said, it's mostly a social thing. And when you're bringing your children into a racetrack, I want those children to see our signs. And I want them to ask their parents later on that day, "Why were those people out there? Why were they chanting? Why were they upset about what's happening?" And I want those parents to have an uncomfortable conversation with their kids. So that's what we're, again, we're only asking people to just rethink this. Rethink how many traditions have we had as human beings that, upon further review, were rightly deemed immoral? So that's not an excuse.

Yvonne: I like the family aspect because when I think back to when I took my kids when they were tiny, it was a fun afternoon at the races. They had face painting and maybe a bouncy castle. And back home, they had little ponies. It was only then that I thought, "Well, you know, I'm saying 'watch out' if you take out your pony when you ride past, say, a flappy bag that's on the side of the road. Don't frighten your pony." And then there's this great bouncy castle, a circus by the side of these horses racing. And it's more, far more now, race days have far more drunk people Race course meetings, I remember, some people kicking bins over, some middle-aged guys, and just thought it’s awful, "All of a sudden, when you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change, doesn't it?" And it was a case, actually, I wouldn't put my own horses amongst all that. I'd be horrified.

Patrick: Yes exactly.

Yvonne: When you go down to the start in horse races, you used to be able to see the jockeys jeering up their horses to get them ready for the race. Even though commentators would say that they are trying to make sure that the horses get down to the start nicely and quietly, it is often very noisy and not always beneficial for young horses who are only two or three years old. These horses have come from a professional place where they line up every morning for their gallops and everything is done calmly.

Monty Roberts, a great racing fan who trained the late HM Queen's horses, tried for years to improve horse racing. He even trained some American racehorses that don't get ridden with a whip. However, it seems despite the efforts of many kind and well-meaning great people, the industry still has a long way to go before it can be truly safe for the horses. It's not just about waiting until the horse is mature, it's about making sure that everyone rides without a whip and that the stalls are made safer. But even if all of these changes were made, it's not clear if it would be enough to prevent accidents like the one that happened the other day, where a horse's bones were sticking out of its leg.

Patrick: I see that all the time. Yeah, you know, I think the hardest part, the hardest part of the year for me is January, February, when no one's talking about racing. I start to get my FOIA documents in each. You know, I usually file twice a year, but for the second half of the year, I start getting them in the dead of winter, and I start reading through these reports. And as you just said, it's not just that the horse died, it's the details. And I have a page on the website called "How They Died," sampling of some of these horses who died last year at US tracks. And, you know, severed spines, broken necks, they bled out from the nostrils. So it's obviously, like you said, compound open fractures, shattered into multiple pieces. This is the language that I get from the Racing Commissions.

And then back in the stalls, people don't even think about the stall. That's not something, by the way, that has changed because of us. When we first began, the apologist would come onto the website and go, "It's unfair that you're reporting stall deaths as a responsibility of the industry." And I always use a historical analogy. I'm a big Civil War buff, a history buff in general, American Civil War. And we were taught as children that 650,000 soldiers died in the Civil War. Most people know that figure. But most people are unaware that two-thirds of those soldiers died of disease in the camps. No historian has ever tried to draw a distinction between a soldier who died of dysentery and a soldier who died of a gunshot wound, nor should they. And the same thing applies to horse racing. We're talking about still-active horses in between races, most of them still pubescence or adolescence at best, dying in their stalls of colic and laminitis and pleural pneumonia. And often we see in the reports, "Found dead in the morning." Quote, "Found dead in the morning, horse died all alone by himself in his stall." Sometimes they can't even pinpoint a cause.

So that has changed. So now it's just accepted. We're talking about all kinds of track deaths, racing, training, and stall are all included. And that's largely because of the work that we've done. We drew a hard line. Absolutely, the industry is responsible. And anyone who comes on the site goes, "Well, hop, you know, horses can and do colic anywhere that horses are kept." That's true. But again, I go back to my research. I have scientists saying that racehorses, I'm sorry, are at a higher risk of developing colic than other horses because of the way they're fed, how they're kept, etc. So again, it's in its totality. We're talking about just a horrific industry from beginning to end.

One thing that I do want to talk about that most people don't even think about is the use of bits on horses during racing. Last summer, a professional photographer was taking photos of protestors in front of Saratoga. When asked if she could take photos of the horses' heads and the paraphernalia on them, including the chains, tongue ties, and blinders, she obliged. The resulting pictures were powerful and showed the cruelty inflicted on horses during races.

The photographs were sent to the advisory board of the group, which includes Dr. Doddman, an expert in animal behavior. Dr. Doddman reached out to a colleague from Tufts who specializes in equine ear, nose, and throat, and the effect of bits on horses. Initially, the colleague was reluctant to get involved due to not wanting to be associated with animal rights activism. However, he agreed to write about what he saw in the pictures.

The statement that the expert wrote was devastating. He found that the bits used on racehorses caused not only pain from the metal piece being shoved up into the soft palate of their mouths but also feelings of asphyxiation and suffocation. This is because horses are obligate nose breathers and require a tight lip seal when running. The expert likened the experience to waterboarding.

The statement is available on the group's website under the search "bits of cruelty." The expert's findings challenge the common notion that this is just what we do with horses. The group has challenged racing enthusiasts to refute the expert's claims.

Yvonne: It's interesting how people who love horses and attend races may not treat their own horses at home the same way. They want their horses to live to be 20 or 30 years old, but probably less than 5% of world racehorses ever reach that age or retire. The only ones that do are usually elite stallions or breed mares that have value to big owners. While some owners do offer good rehoming options, it's a tiny fraction, and not many horses survive long enough to make it there. It's as heartbreaking as seeing kids ponies passed around without ever getting a break or retirement.

We need more people who have horses to stop supporting industries that are cruel to animals. It's not an "us vs. them" situation because stopping animal cruelty actually protects our own hobbies. But it's a big issue because people worry that if one industry stops, others will come under attack.

It's like trying to stop an elephant in a zoo from swaying back and forth - you're not trying to stop sanctuaries where people can have sustainable tourism. The water is murky, especially in these times of climate change, and things are going to change. In the UK, we don't handle heat very well, and racing was canceled last summer when we had a 40-degree heat wave. It's going to be the same in other parts of the world, and the racing industry may become unsustainable.

Patrick: I believe that demographics are not in favor of horse racing. The industry doesn't draw younger generations for two reasons. Firstly, there is more competition for the gambling dollar. It's ironic because when the racing industry goes to state legislatures and asks for taxpayer handouts, they argue that they can't compete with lotteries and casinos. But they had a monopoly on legal gambling in America for decades. There is now even more competition, especially with mobile sports betting. I don't know if you have it in the UK, but you can bet on basketball, football, and baseball. Clearly, the younger generations are more interested in that than they are in learning how to handicap a horse race.

The second reason is that there are changing sensibilities. You don't have to be a vegan animal rights activist to ask why we still whip horses so that I can place a bet when I can go to a casino or bet on my phone. Different sensibilities are clearly at play here. A lot of it has to do with the information available to us at our fingertips, which we didn't have growing up. If you search for "horse racing cruelty," you'll find sites and people bringing it to light. People know that, in the long term, horse racing is a losing proposition.

Churchill Downs is boasting that they set a record at the Kentucky Derby, but that's an anomaly. We're talking about a handful of races over the course of a year that are truly successful and draw the masses. Racing day in and day out is a failing proposition, and the industry knows that. In the long term, we're in good shape. We just need to work on these subsidies. As long as these laws are on the books, the horse people will laugh all the way to the bank.

The way it works is that they create what are called racinos, which are a combination racetrack and casino. They establish slot parlors at these tracks, and people bet on the slot machines. A portion of that money is supposed to go back to the state for education for children, but it's being used to prop up the racing operations. People are unwittingly supporting horse racing, even if they have no interest in it. We're working on reversing these subsidies in New York, and we're hoping that we can do it in other states too.

Yvonne: That's really amazing what you're achieving, well done! It's important to be more caring towards the increased poverty caused by the cost of living crisis these days. Almost everybody knows somebody who has been affected. Sometimes, life throws unexpected challenges at us, and it's not part of our plan. However, if we add the high cost of living to it, it becomes much more difficult. Nobody wants to see anything taken away from families or kids who are not doing well, especially not to subsidise an elite industry. As you mentioned, we don't even need to support such an industry.

I think a lot about the over-the-border slaughter. Is your organization focused on that? I know there are other organizations that deal with it, but do you specifically highlight it?

Horse waiting in an abattoir.
Horse waiting in an abattoir.

Patrick: When we first started slaughtering horses on US soil, it had shut down completely six years prior, so the last time we had a functioning slaughterhouse was in 2007. Currently, we ship horses to Canada and Mexico for slaughter. Two studies have been done to identify the breeds going to slaughter, and they found that 16-19% of American horses going to slaughter were thoroughbreds, which are synonymous with racehorses. With over 100,000 horses being shipped for slaughter, this means that we are talking about 16-19,000 former racehorses going to slaughter each year.

The slaughterhouse experience is even worse for horses because they are flight animals, and they get scared as they approach the slaughterhouse. Additionally, anatomically, horses have their brains towards the back of their heads, which makes it more difficult to achieve a true kill shot with a rifle or retractable metal bolt. Often, it takes multiple tries to kill the horse, and they can be bled out and butchered while still conscious. There is undercover video footage from Canada showing a man shooting a 22 caliber rifle at a horse in the kill pen, and the horse is flailing because it has been hit multiple times, but not killed. The man then takes his time to get more ammunition while the horse is dying an excruciating death.

Canadian equine advocates who have done undercover work at Canadian slaughterhouses have said that what broke their heart the most was the horses' trusting nature. These horses grew up living amongst humans, and they would rush to the sides of the pens to try to greet the slaughterhouse workers who were going to kill them, looking for a friendly face. This is after being stuck on a cramped truck for up to 28 hours by law without food, water, or rest. It is a horrible and inhumane process, and we try to bring attention to it when we protest. We want people to know that even at Saratoga, most of the horses racing today will end up at the slaughterhouse, and we ask if people are comfortable with that.

Yvonne: Beyond the events that happen on the track, it's important to consider how much stable staff love these horses and want the best for them. But we should also ask ourselves: would they lead these horses to slaughter? Are they there to calm them down when they can smell death? Love shouldn't end in a slaughterhouse. These horses deserve better, it's a worthwhile to think about ending support of this industry. We should ask for a bit of kindness for life, treating every animal as if it were our pet. There's a reason why pets don't go to a slaughterhouse, and why we don't hit our dogs when we walk them in the park. The same principle applies to horses. We need to break down the barrier between a horse on a racecourse and a horse in our field. If we wouldn't do it to one, we shouldn't do it to the other.

Patrick: I often say that when it comes to whipping, if you saw someone whipping their dog in the park, you would call the police and that person would be arrested on the spot for felony animal cruelty. However, at the racetrack, it's right there in full public view and it's considered part of the tradition. So, we try to bring these things to the public's consciousness, bring awareness to what is happening, and hope that in their quiet moments, they will think about it and approach it with a fresh lens and see it for what it is.

It's not the worst thing we do to animals, clearly by scale we're talking about factory farming or animal testing, but there's just no justification for it.

Yvonne: We need to rethink this issue. Science in horse welfare is important, and we should consider following it.

We've had a good discussion today. It's good to have these discussions because they address issues that are often in our minds but never really talked about. You've presented the facts very well, and that's how people who want to make change happen can influence new government laws. You're doing a great job standing outside racetracks and trying to change laws, and I applaud you for that. I hope our readers can take a lot from this.

If anyone feels they can add a letter of support or do something to back organizations like Horseracing Wrongs, that would be great. On their website,, there are facts that can help spread awareness. If everyone shares a bit of the information, one or two people may pick it up, and with the power of the internet, we can do a great job spreading the word. We'd all love to help in any way we can.

Partick: Nicole put it perfectly when she said, "For over 150 years, these horses suffered in silence and died in anonymity, and we are finally giving them representation." We are asking people to join the fight in any way they can. This can be as simple as sharing our posts or writing a letter to the editor, which is still a very effective way to advocate. Another way to get involved is by joining a protest. If you are in America, we can help you find a protest or even start one. However, anywhere that horses are being raced, whether it's in the UK, Australia, or elsewhere, we have to rise up and tell people that this is wrong and cannot stand.

I always say that every great social movement starts in the streets, whether it's civil rights, women's rights, or sexual orientation rights. Protests give voice to your outrage and let the public know that there's something wrong going on. That's what we're doing for animals and horses specifically. Remember, animals don't have a voice, so we have to be their voices. Let's give them the representation they deserve.

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