Commentary: Horse racing is about progress, not “sterilization to extinction” – Horse Racing News


When those holding extreme views vie for attention, they often rely on the cheap tricks of skilled propagandists, such as using highly charged and often outrageous language to make emotional appeals steeped in urgency. Claims are often built around a core of truth so that they seem believable. And comparisons are made between their problems and common human experiences; the more emotional, the better.

A recent Albany Union Times The opinion column titled “There’s No Getting Around It: Horse Racing Is Immoral”, by Patrick Battuello of Horse Racing Wrongs is a classic attempt to generalize fringe ideas.

Mr. Battuello’s column bends and fabricates information to create outrage and sympathy by tugging at heartstrings. It uses expressions such as “torn of his mother like a simple baby”, “like a child locked in a cupboard”, “dive in intensive training” or “alone and terrified” while paying little attention to the facts or science of pets.

Mr. Battuello has published opinion columns and made media appearances for years in which he consistently ignores the facts and relies on emotional rants and misrepresentations. In his recent article, he made several outrageous claims with little to no supporting evidence. As his claim of 2,000 annual racehorse deaths he admits in his own blog is made up using the classic fact-dodging, “we estimate.”

Instead of spreading lies, the horse racing industry is working to keep horse welfare front and center with new laws like the Horse Racing Integrity and Security Act (HISA) of 2020. At first, this bill was championed by the Jockey Club, which is the registry for thoroughbred breeds in the United States, Canada, and Puerto Rico, and other leading organizations in the industry, including the New York Racing Association. HISA is a great example of how the industry is working to protect horses, in this case by establishing the first national anti-doping program and numerous provisions aimed at the health and safety of racehorses.

And at the state level, governments and organizations are constantly working to make racing safer for horses and jockeys. Over the past two decades, California has seen a 60% decrease in horse deaths due to California Horse Racing Board reforms. Numerous safety measures have also been adopted in other states, including New York, Pennsylvania and Maryland.

Mr. Battuello also wants people to believe that things like weaning, stripping, stalling and other terms are cruel to horses. On the contrary, these practices are beneficial for a horse. Weaning does not snatch a foal from its mother, but is the transition period from mare’s milk to increased levels and various types of feed. Breakup is the training of a horse to ride and is aimed at all breeds and all riding disciplines.

Tools such as lip chains and blinkers are used to help the horses, not to torture them as Mr Battuello would have you believe.

What people should know, including Mr. Battuello, is how seriously the industry takes horse health and safety. In 2008 the Jockey Club created the Equine Injury Database (EID) to track racing injuries. Contrary to Mr Battuello’s “estimated” claim of 2,000 deaths a year, the actual death rate is more than 50% lower, and it was at its lowest of 29.5% since 2009 last year.

Mr. Battuello’s emotionally charged rhetoric proclaiming the horrors of 2-year-old racehorses ignores facts and science. Data has shown that 2-year-old racehorses live longer and healthier lives than horses that don’t start until they are 3 years old or older. Dr Larry Bramlage, an eminent veterinary surgeon and member of the Jockey Club Thoroughbred Safety Committee, and Dr Tim Parkin, a veterinary epidemiologist at the University of Glasgow who consults on EID, presented this research, which was determined using scientific evidence, to members of the industry.

But Mr Battuello’s outrageous claims should come as no surprise, as Horse Racing Wrongs’ goal is not simply to end horse racing, but to end all use of pets for food, such as pets or as service animals. In a now-deleted statement from his website, Battuello wrote: “We hold that no animal should be raised, domesticated and used for human purposes. Evil, as we see it, begins and ends with animal ownership.

And Mr. Battuello’s status as an extremist representative of a fringe group is highlighted in a now-deleted blog he wrote for the Union Times in 2014. His writings advocated living in an “animal-free society” and called for every domestic animal to be “neutered to extinction” to prevent future generations from existing.

“Neuter to extinction” and lies are not the answer to making racing safer for horses and riders. Progress, however, is what everyone involved in horse racing will continue to work towards now and in the future.


David Fuscus is CEO of Xenophon Strategies, a Washington, DC communications company that has been engaged in the past by the Jockey Club and other industry organizations. He is a lifelong racing enthusiast and occasional racehorse owner.


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