NYT Goes In-Depth on Horse Racing
March 25, 2012
Warning: Photo of dead racehorse at link
The title of the article helps prepare the reader for the misery that follows: Death and disarray at America’s racetracks – Mangled Horses, Maimed Jockeys
On average, 24 horses die each week at racetracks across America. Many are inexpensive horses racing with little regulatory protection in pursuit of bigger and bigger prizes. These deaths often go unexamined, the bodies shipped to rendering plants and landfills rather than to pathologists who might have discovered why the horses broke down.
Why racehorses break down at such a high rate has been debated for years, but the discussion inevitably comes back to drugs.
Laboratories cannot yet detect the newest performance-enhancing drugs, while trainers experiment with anything that might give them an edge, including chemicals that bulk up pigs and cattle before slaughter, cobra venom, Viagra, blood doping agents, stimulants and cancer drugs.
Illegal doping, racing officials say, often occurs on private farms before horses are shipped to the track. Few states can legally test horses there.
The piece states that in England, horses are not allowed to race while receiving any type of drug and that the country’s breakdown rate is half that of the United States. While it’s likely too simplistic a solution to address a comprehensive problem, I can’t help thinking it would be a good, common sense place to start in this country. If a horse in in pain from an injury or otherwise in need of medication, he should be treated appropriately and not raced until such time as he is completely recovered. I can’t see any drawbacks to the rule itself, although enforcement might be daunting to implement across the board.
The Times does a good job putting pain and suffering – of both horses and humans – front and center. After a family outing to a racetrack where her two grandchildren saw a horse’s leg bone snap, puncturing the skin, before he was euthanized on the track, Laura Alvarado wrote a letter to the editor of her local paper:
She said she sent copies of the letter to the mayor, the track, its chief veterinarian, the Humane Society and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
Ms. Alvarado expected a response.
She never got one, she said.
I would posit that the mayor, the track, its vet, HSUS and the ASPCA were of one mind when it came to ignoring Ms. Alvarado’s letter: There is no money to be made in forcing the horse racing industry to clean up and become accountable.