Written and Researched
by JANE ALLIN
TABLE OF CONTENTS
CLEARLY the focal point of the matter regardless of the global racing jurisdiction is the critical overpopulation of horses as a direct consequence of over breeding coupled with the fact that few in the industry are willing to be accountable for their charges.
There is no question that racing is infused with money but sadly that money is not directed toward the welfare of the horse once their racing careers end, where “end” denotes a mere fraction of their typical life span.
With the evolution of horse racing to the gainful global financial empires that currently exist, for many if not most in the business, slaughter is regarded as a normal “transaction” and part of the day-to-day workflow – a “necessary evil” where the horse is dealt with as a disposable commodity.
So it seems that is the message horse racing conveys with their "turning a blind eye" or "blinkered" approach. If not, then why does it continue?
It does not help the situation when individuals such as Alex Waldrop, president and chief executive of the National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA) in NA, insist that overbreeding is not to blame for the slaughter element of the racing industry.
“Alex Waldrop, president and chief executive of the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, rejected that overbreeding was to blame but acknowledged that slaughter was an issue. The prices that are being paid by foreign entities who want horse meat is what’s driving slaughter, not the oversupply of horses,” Waldrop said. 
This is an archetypal statement of denial from pro-horse slaughter individuals and organizations in NA. Waldrop’s statement lacks principle and logical thought. If there is no overbreeding then why are there over 130,000 US horses that annually cross the Mexican and Canadian borders for slaughter as well-documented by said country? Pure nonsense.
The truth is that because slaughter exists the market for horse meat facilitates corruption within the industry and at the end of the day promotes overbreeding, in-breeding and unwarranted drug use. Where a demand for horse meat exists, the supply will follow. In basic terms, it is simply too convenient. All for what?
“Slaughter represents less than 3 cents for every $100 of revenue in the horse industry. It has nothing to do with the health of the horse industry.” 
It is time for breeders and owners to take the reins of responsibility for the athletes that they mass produce at alarming levels. These horses are not livestock and have had intimate human contact since they day they were born – they are living, breathing companions with unique personalities, not commodities like metals or petroleum products for example. At least that is what their function on this earth was intended be.
Time and again, those whose duty it is to ensure a safe and comfortable retirement shirk their responsibilities. As much as there are wonderful and caring retirement charities that strive to accommodate the masses, these compassionate individuals who work relentlessly and rely on donations from the public cannot provide for all of the cast-offs from this hardhearted industry, regardless of the locale – it is a global problem of mass proportions.
The pro-slaughter industry prevails with futility and rhetoric. Obviously, the vast majority of breeders and owners in the horse racing industry are part of this interest group. They simply do not want to administer any pro-horse initiatives nor do they want to be responsible. The callousness and cruelty cast upon one of God’s most splendid creatures serving us diligently since the beginning of time is unthinkable.
As an example of the indifference that exists, in May of 2011, PETA called on the Jockey Club (NA) to inaugurate a new Thoroughbred retirement fund.
“People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has come up with a plan—the Thoroughbred 360 Lifecycle Retirement Fund—to jumpstart this effort. This proposal would require a mandatory $360 retirement fee with every foal registration, a $360 fee for every transfer of ownership, and a $360 fee for each stallion and broodmare registration.
This is affordable for thoroughbred owners and would generate more than $20 million toward retirement. It wouldn’t solve all the problems—clearly the fund would have to be used wisely. This would require proper planning and administration. But without a substantial sum, nothing will be done. Thoroughbreds will continue to be trucked across our borders to their deaths by the tens of thousands.” 
Regardless of what PETA may stand for in many people’s minds, it is nonetheless a valid and feasible proposition from both a humane and ethical perspective. Unfortunately the response has been anything but enthusiastic.
In response to PETA’s proposal, the Jockey Club issued a statement:
“We continually explore and review programs and initiatives that could potentially enhance the welfare of retired thoroughbreds, but it is not the role of the Jockey Club to mandate specific courses of action for owners when it comes to making contribution decisions for retraining and retirement programs.” 
Acceptable? Not in the least. In fact, the Jockey Club’s Retirement “Checkoff Program” which is a voluntary donation based on submission of registration papers generated only $43,000 from 30,000 foal registrations in 2010 amounting to a meager $1.44 per horse. 
No one seems to care.
“The racing industry needs to deal with this life and death issue. Thoroughbred retirement is a racing industry obligation, not a voluntary donation.” 
Other initiatives such as “zero-tolerance” policies at racetracks have also been implemented and while all good and well intentioned, have not as a rule been totally successful. Much of the problem revolves around documentation, implementation and credibility along with adequate enforcement. But isn’t this really an excuse rather than a solution? How difficult is it to create a registered database with the introduction of mandatory paperwork that must change hands when a horse leaves the track.
As Anne Russek, a Virginia horsewoman involved in Thoroughbred retirement points out:
“We have all this information at our fingertips and choose not to use it,” Russek said. “Without fail it’s nothing but lip service from the higher-ups. A lot has been done over the years, but my take on it is the racing industry has more addressed it from a public-relations aspect rather than figuring out how to solve the problem.” 
In the meantime, racetracks without the proper initiatives in place and without the support of necessary sources that can provide alternatives to slaughter for retiring Thoroughbreds the consequences are grim and may add even more hardship to an already dire situation. A guest commentary by Alex Brown (www.alexbrownracing.com) lends insight to the unintended consequences of zero tolerance policies for horse slaughter at many North American tracks that have adopted these well-intended but poorly managed strategies.
“So what happens to the horses at the racetracks with zero-tolerance slaughter policies? Racehorses that were going to public kill auctions?
“A policy of zero tolerance for slaughter simply sends some of these horses 'underground.' Rather than go to a public auction like New Holland, where they can be seen by private buyers and horse rescues, they go directly to kill buyer feedlots and kill pens. Rescues that once had access to these feedlots and kill pens will no longer be provided access.
“Fewer racehorses may enter the slaughter pipeline, but more may ultimately be slaughtered.” 
Obviously, it is long past time the racing industry remedy the disgrace this sport has become – the “Sport of Bloodshed”, certainly not of the gallant Bloodstock that grace its runways and instill awe and inspiration in its fans. Change is needed.
There is more than ample money in this industry to create the necessary retirement facilities to accommodate every horse that finishes their career whether they be a celebrated or average athlete.
Breeders, owners and trainers must be held accountable and provide for a safe and humane alternative to slaughter.
For the most part, volunteer organizations working tirelessly out of the goodness of their hearts, run on shoestring budgets with nominal manpower, and have little political authority compared to the pro-slaughter groups who dominate with wealthy influential lobbyists in their mission to defend the current state of affairs.
Given that the horse is entrenched in the evolution of human civilization and that without their loyalty, endurance and bravery in times of battle, is it not deserving to give them a modicum of reverence and appreciation for their ever-present value both in work and play?
Apparently not according to the racing industry ― exploited for profit even in death.
“What he liked about horse racing was the minimal investment and the high returns. He didn’t mind horses at all; they were easy on the eyes and exciting to watch.
The horses industry in general was a zero-waste proposition: this was one animal you could take from birth, exploit all its qualities – speed, strength, tractability – through breeding, racing, eventing, caléche or companion service, and then profit from its flesh when it had outlived its usefulness.
You had to respect the horse. He was more than a beast of burden. He was a full service animal from birth to barbeque ― no part of him wasted, no quality left unmined.” 
 Ibid. at 
 D’Errico, Cynthia; Ground Manners, A Novel; p. 138; Xlibris; 13 January 2011.
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