Written by PETA
We were pretty disappointed when we heard that Mattel was planning to release a "Kentucky Derby Barbie." Barbie has a long history as an animal defender (she's been fur-free for years)—why would she get all, ahem, "dolled" up for an event that centers around animal abuse?
Then it occurred to us that Barbie could very well go to the Kentucky Derby (or, as we say in Louisville, "the Derby") and still maintain her animal-friendly image. How, you ask? By protesting the Derby, of course!
That's why PETA sent a letter to the CEO of Mattel asking him to provide Kentucky Derby Barbie with two special items to take with her to Churchill Downs. She should have her very own to-scale protest sign—reading "Horse Racing is Horse Abuse"—as well as a memorial wreath commemorating Eight Belles and all the other horses who die every day on race tracks. In addition, Kentucky Derby Barbie's box should come with a sticker that explains why Barbie is on her high horse about the dangerous practices that are rampant in the horse-racing industry, such as pumping horses with steroids and other drugs to enable them to run with injuries, breeding horses to have fragile legs, running horses too young (before their bones have fully formed), and racing them on hard dirt tracks.
Barbie's a smart girl. After all, she has been a surgeon, an astronaut, and President of the United States. Surely she knows that there are better ways to spend a Saturday in May than at a "sporting event" that is all too likely to end in tragedy.
Written by Amanda Schinke
If you aim a wind-up toy at a brick wall, logic would tell you that the toy is going to continue slamming into the wall unless the wall is removed, right?
Well, as long as the horse-racing industry exists, tragedy is going to follow. Case in point: Two more horses at the Aqueduct Race Track had to be euthanized last week after suffering broken legs on the track. One of the breakdowns was so catastrophic that five horses slammed to the ground. You can watch footage of the race below.
One would think that the horse-racing industry would at least make some changes to protect these horses better, such as mandating turf track, which is softer than either dirt or synthetic tracks. Instead, as The New York Daily News reports, the industry simply tries to cover up fatal falls. When questioned about its decision not to show footage of the fall that brought down five horses, the New York Racing Association (NYRA) claimed that it didn't want the footage to get into the wrong hands, meaning animal rights groups. Oops! Looks like that didn't work out so well, did it?
My favorite quote about the decision not to air the footage comes from a NYRA spokesperson, who said: "It was a judgment call on a particularly scary-looking spill."
Exactly. Don't want to scare off those railbirds and their lucrative bets, do we? As if the tragic deaths of Eight Belles last year and Barbaro in 2006 haven't already given race fans enough to think about.
Written by Jennifer Cierlitsky
It's official: Just weeks before he was to race in the Breeders' Cup, Big Brown has officially been retired from horse racing because of a serious foot injury. The 3-year-old horse, who earlier this year won the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness and who outran Eight Belles before she collapsed and had to be euthanized on the track after the Kentucky Derby, has now himself succumbed to the dangers of horse-racing. Honestly, Big Brown's retirement isn't even remotely shocking, given that horses who race are often forced to run before their legs have fully matured.
Unfortunately, retirement from racing for a horse who has developed injuries or is no longer fast enough to complete usually means a lifetime of breeding or a one-way trip to the slaughterhouse.
PETA immediately sent a letter to officials to ask that Big Brown be gelded and fully retired, not held at stud to breed and pass along the traits of a horse who has sustained several injuries throughout his racing career. You can view our full letter here.
Horse racing has always been a greedy, money-hungry industry with little regard for the animals it puts in harms way, so long as the horses continue to bring in the big bucks. Fortunately though, laws are changing to help protect these horses. Side whipping as well as "Snapper" whips, which are used in harness racing, have both been banned. Anabolic steroids have been banned from racing, and Maryland recently banned the use of all steroids. But we still have a long way to go to shut down all horse-racing venues and to remove these animals from lives plagued by injury.
It takes a lot to shock the public these days, but the fact that cruel incidents in the horseracing world are finally being taken seriously is just about doing the trick. Before Eight Belles' tragic death made the public realize that horseracing isn't all fun and games, drugging and heavy whipping just made up another day in the industry. But now, people are on red alert, and we're doing our best to continue exposing the horseracing industry for what it really is. Because of all this new attention, the industry is getting a good once-over from the public, Congress, and horseracing authorities, and skeletons just keep falling out of the closet.
On that note, let's talk about whipping, shall we? Now, don't get excited ... this isn't the fun kind. Whipping racehorses was banned in 1982 in Norway under the Cruelty to Animals Act. It's severely restricted in the U.K., and many jockeys there are asking for it to be completely banned. If you ever had any doubt that it should be banned in the U.S., check out this video:
The good news is that Jeremy Rose, the jockey in the above video, was recently suspended in Delaware for six months for "extreme misuse of the whip." You can read all about that here.
It's about damn time that these serious problems are being taken seriously! Here's to hoping that there's no future need for hideous videos and cruelty charges in "sports." Thanks for ruining my Friday, Jeremy! I hope you spend your six months in some serious deep thought.
Posted by Christine Dore
Rick Dutrow is Big Brown's trainer, who was M.I.A. during the congressional hearings. It seems the Kentucky Horse Racing Authority found one of his horses, Salute the Count, with the highest level of clenbuterol (a bronchial dialator that also functions as a steroid) that the chief steward had seen in four years—more than twice the allowable level.
Dutrow is being suspended for a mere 15 days and will have to return the $20,000 that he made off drugging and racing Salute the Count at the race where he was tested. In his defense, he was quoted as saying that he uses this on many of his horses and has only once had a problem with it.
If that wasn't enough, jockey Jeremy Rose was recently suspended for "engag[ing] in extreme misuse of the whip" on his horse, Appeal to the City, according to this Blood-Horse article. I was not aware that there were proper and acceptable uses for whips on animals—only on humans.
Rose has been suspended (in Delaware only) for six months and will have to pay veterinary bills for the animal, which include treatment for hemorrhaging around his eye from being whipped in the face. Even though it's not as good as being permanently banned from contact with horses, Rose's relatively stiff sentence—virtually unheard of in the history of horseracing—shows that outside pressure is seriously having an effect on state regulatory bodies.
However, in the absence of an overarching federal body to oversee horseracing, the suspensions of Rose and Dutrow will only be effective in Delaware and Kentucky, respectively. They can still train, mount, drug, or whip horses elsewhere.
Posted by Sean Conner
As arguably tasteless as he may be, Triumph the Insult Dog from the Late Night With Conan O'Brien show made some excellent points in his coverage of the recent Belmont Stakes. As I've pointed out before with humor articles and videos, they often sneak in a few insightful points about whatever act or industry they've set in their crosshairs. In the few moments when he's not busy insulting virtually every attendee of the Belmont Stakes, Triumph does just that.
The horseracing industry is just another instance of the same mentality behind dogfighting (although Triumph may have said so less eloquently). The difference is that horses are raced and killed out in the open.
Besides a chuckle, what I took away from this video was a sense of how unimportant horseracing itself is to the Belmont Stakes. Most of what I saw was just noticeably intoxicated people standing in the hot sun, cracking wise and goofing off. I've enjoyed (and been) this very spectacle at every low-cost local beer garden or outdoor concert I've ever stumbled home from. I don't recall once stopping to think how desperately the event needed horses running in a giant loop to complete the experience.
To see Triumph in all his potty-mouthed glory, check out the video here:
As if we didn't already have enough reasons to protest the horseracing industry, the Associated Press reports that nearly 20 racehorses crammed inside a double-decker trailer meant for moving cattle sustained numerous injuries following the four-day transport from the U.S. to Puerto Rico. Apparently, it didn't occur to the people handling these animals that horses are taller than cows. The horses' bodies were forced into unnatural and painful crouched positions—even causing one horse to remain crouched over for five days following arrival.
The injuries sustained en route have prompted the U.S. Department of Agriculture to launch a federal investigation.
I guess the handlers missed the memo sent out by the legion of misguided race fanatics that racehorses are better cared for than any other animal used for "entertainment." Sarcasm aside, the aforementioned statement is the number one excuse we keep hearing from race fans who continue to support a dying industry.
This wasn't one case of poorly arranged transport, folks—it's an ever-growing trend in the racing industry to cut costs and increase earnings. Thoroughbreds are transported to Puerto Rico by the hundreds each year, and racehorses on all tracks are made to suffer by this money-hungry industry. Steroids, painkillers, and injuries because of underdeveloped bones—if this is the good life, then I really don't want to see the bad. Take action to help horses here.
*The other reasons are the more than 5,000 horses that have died on racetracks since 2003.
Posted by Jennifer Cierlitsky
On behalf of thoroughbreds everywhere, a congressional hearing was held today to discuss horseracing—just weeks after PETA and tens of thousands of our members and supporters called for it. You can get a pretty cool play-by-play of the meeting here, but basically, the primary message was that the drugs are the problem—not just steroids but all drugs. Person after person said in testimony that if you get rid of the drugs, you get rid of a lot of problems in racing because horses who don't have the strength to run won't run and then won't be bred. What we need is a zero-tolerance policy!
The hearing was full of moving testimony, including comments from a woman who runs CANTER, a thoroughbred rescue. She gets the horses who have been on all kinds of drugs their whole lives and said that when they go off drugs, they go through withdrawal periods that include hair loss, weight loss, and depression. One of my favorite quotes from the afternoon came from Rep. Jan Schakowsky, who said, "Greed has trumped the health of horses." One person who was not so surprisingly absent was Big Brown's trainer, Richard Dutrow. Given his rap sheet of drug infractions, I can't say I was terribly surprised.
There will be at least one more hearing, possibly looking to consider legislation to appoint a federal racing commissioner so that all laws pertaining to racing will be uniform. The congressional committee also voted to admit PETA's written testimony—which you can read here—into record.
You can respond to our latest horseracing action alert to let Congress know that you care about Eight Belles and all the less famous horses who face death on the track and get your voice heard! These hearings are a wonderful step in the right direction, and we need to continue pushing for progress.
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Almost all of us grew up eating meat, wearing leather, and going to circuses and zoos. We never considered the impact of these actions on the animals involved. For whatever reason, you are now asking the question: Why should animals have rights? Read more.