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Churchill Downs Becomes a Memorial Site

Written by PETA | May 1, 2009


tottman / CC

Bodies may not be buried at Churchill Downs, but with so many horses having drawn their last breath there after having been run to death, it might as well be a cemetery. And for two days it will be, because PETA has erected 265 headstones outside the racetrack this week.

Why 265, you ask? We included 263 headstones to represent the horses who have died on the track since last year’s Kentucky Derby and whose names we know, one headstone for the approximately 832 other horses who have died but whose names are not known—because racetracks are so bad at reporting breakdowns and deaths—and one headstone for the approximately 12,000 thoroughbreds who are sent off to slaughter each year.

Churchill Downs is, of course, home to the Kentucky Derby and is where Eight Belles lost her life one year ago. Since the Eight Belles tragedy, Churchill Downs has made some reforms in the ways that horses are treated on its track, but banning the use of legal drugs to mask injuries hasn’t been one of them. PETA is calling on the people who run the track to ban the use of all drugs in the week before a race. By bringing attention to the thousands of lost lives that don’t make headline news, our display will hopefully inspire horse-racing officials to take action.

After all, by my calculations, the horse-racing industry has caused 13,095 horses to die this past year. That’s enough to fill a cemetery plus some.

Update: Check out these pictures from the unveiling, then go browse more art by Dan Lacey, who painted the gorgeous picture of Eight Belles.




Churchill Downs


Churchill Downs


Written by Shawna Flavell

Curious about the names of the horses who have died on racetracks during the past year? Click here.

Commenting is closed.
  • Nik says:

    I am so glad there are no longer any slaughter houses in the united states because now instead of putting them down they can starve to death, way to go animal activists!

  • Mel says:

    A few points to PETA and those who say horses shouldn’t be used by humans for anything 1. In the wild west horses were a means of transportation. They were brought to the United States by the Spaniards for that purpose. Had our ancestors been like you and not used horses for transportation we would not be where we are today a country. 2. I agree there needs to be reforms. Part of the reason for so many deaths is that the horses are raced too young. Their bones have not fully developed yet therefore they’re more prone to injuries up to and including fractures. They need to if they insist on racing have the horses older. That way there’s less likelihood of fractures breaks and other lifethreatening injuries. I do applaud racetracks that have given a damn and have taken steps to improve racing. However there needs to be more done. 3. I agree that horses shouldn’t be used for human or animal consumption however this is not the norm in the United States. It is usually countries such as France and Japan where it’s a delicacy. Makes me sick personally and would stand up for banning horse slaughtering. 4. Yes it hurts even the “killer” to put down a horse. They don’t want to do it anymore than you want them too. When a vet puts down an animal they hurt as much as their owners. I don’t care if money is a reason but that doesn’t mean it’s the ONLY reason. If you want to look at the large scale of this we allow our pets to be euthanized read Killed every year because it’s more humane than letting them suffer. When Eight Belles was euthanized last year it was because it would end her suffering. Yes Barbaro did have surgery on his leg however even he died well had to be put down because of complications from healing. 5. I’ve noticed that people tend to group all the horses together at one racing track when most of them are at smaller race tracks who died during the year. While there may be cases where horses are treated cruelly please try to note where you noticed this. What it at the big three races or was it a small one? People should know the whole facts before making statements.

  • Carla C. says:

    anne B. Your as ignorant as the jockey’s and people who support this to make money off of innocent animals. Let’s make you race and see you how like.. against YOUR will. Jerk..

  • Melissa P. says:

    To Anna That comment that horse racing is “just another dangerous sport like basketballfootball etc and that many sports that humans play are dangerous and we use drugs to mask that as well.” You are forgetting one very vital thing and forgetting the only reason why PETA and many many more do not support horse racing. The animals are not given a choicethey are FORCED. Please do not confuse this with the people who CHOOSEwho make that CHOICE to play dangerous sports.

  • Rhonda says:

    Jockeys can take care and fend for themselves…horses are treated like expensive toys until they become a liability. I own horses and a three year old is a baby…it should not be racing period.

  • Maddie says:

    The fact that some people are willing to call horse racing a sport are nothing more than ignorant fools. How dare you allow yourself to be amused by the training of young horses with undeveloped bones. How dare you support a so called “sport” that will not only cost horses their lives on the track but will supply main stock for horse slaughter industry. Yes these horses may have the best feed barns grooms etc. but what good is any of that when they die out on the track or are sent to a slaughter house once they are no longer “of use”. Ignorant fools get the clue that horse racing will never be a tasteful sport but only a form of abuse based on winning money at the possible expense of a creatures life. STOP THE ABUSE!

  • carla says:

    Paintmare..I assume not your real name… Horses were not put on this god given earth to race for F….. up men. who call themselves Jockeys… Horse racing was created by man… I use the term very very lightly!!!!! So wake up who ever you are. Horses are not here like every animal for our human entertainmentfor money.. which is all horse racing is.. and for food.. geeez… you are just another ignorant human being.

  • carla says:

    ms lindy.. maybe we should make you race and then send your ugly ass off to japan to be ripped open. Asshole.

  • meredith says:

    i am disgusted at the recent broadcast i saw on real sports where they state stable to table in 7 days. how after these racing horses are no longer profitable how they are sent to canada mexico japan to be slaughtered to be fed to the english and japanese. if these owners jockies etc cared about these horses why are over 10 thousand thorobreeds sent to slaughter each year to be used as food. it is a freakin disgrace and so is horse racing. watch the slaughter of these beautiful horses it will make your stomach drop. animals for entertainment is just plain wrong.

  • Joe D. says:

    are you serious. someone said that eight belles owner loved her to death??? and that accidents happen?? if there is anyway that an animal can be harmed or killed in a sport the sport should be outlawed. this so called sport is just a way for rich people to win more money. noone cares about the horses.

  • Paintmare06 says:

    Linda I’m SO glad that Eight Belles DEATH turned you to PETA as you so “very well” put it. I’m DISGUSTED. Eight Belles the pride of joy of the fillies of 08 is DEAD. Larry Jones is in turmoil. The whole backstretch was shaken to the very core. And you’re thankful cause she turned you into a VEGAN?! My god are you serious?

  • Monica says:

    We are slowly moving into an age of consciousness and compassion for all creatures. Freedom for all has become a universal understanding that encompasses all sentient beings. This dream to live peacefully as Gandhi and MLK Jr. set the out to teach is finally taking root.

  • gael tryles says:

    These young horses are raised to run. It is up to the owner and trainer to see that this young horsewhose knee bones haven’t finished their growth andd closingaren’t allowed to run so hard that they ruin their legs and their future.Somehow the fact that these babies are living feeling creatures is forgotten as making money becomes the only thing that matters to the owners and trainers.Can you imagine having alife expectancy of 30 yrs. and to have it over at 2 or 3 years old shame on those who continue the slaughter.

  • Geri Fowler says:

    i don’t find anything wrong with this. horses are made for entertainment and if they die by entertaining who cares?Said by Marie. WellMarieI guess if your boygirl friend used you as entertainment and you died from it….who cares. Animals are not entertainmentthey are living beings and should be treated humanely.People like you are coldabusive types who need to be treated as you would treat an animal…you are souless.Kuddos to Peta!

  • nicolette kerby says:

    most humans are sick and care not for the feelings of animals it’s a sad fact but humans will continue to abuse animals “for fun” as long as they allow horse racing the wearing of fur coats etc.


    I love it when I see all of these defenders of the horse racing industry come out and tell us how well the horses are treated and the jockeys are treated not as good like somehow that makes it alright. Since last years Kentucky Derby over 1097 race horses died while racing. Imagine that most of these giant creatures are dead before reaching the age of 5….. yep your right they are treated so very well. More than 12000 of these beautiful and majestic creatures were sent to the slaughterhouse only because their racing days are over and the cheering crowds are no more for them. They are now part of dog food glue jello marshmallows and yes on a persons dinner plate somewhere in Europe where they love horse meat. Sorry defenders of horse racing the facts are the facts and you can’t defend those. So do you still want to sit there and tell us all how well the horses are treated?

  • megan says:

    Come on Rebecca. If we needed to get a life what are you doing on this blog? No one ever said ALL horses but that horses are being mistreated like this is a fact face it. Just because we all have dogs does not mean all people treat their dogs well? All this is always the same in the name of greed. Of course they will call it ‘sport’ but I wonder if they would be doing it if no money was involved?

  • anne B says:

    ok well while I dont agree with what the horse racing industry does to horses I dont totaly agree with Pets either. People get your facts straight and realise that the industry is a BIG one and will never be stopped . They are working everyday to make the tracks safer for both horse and jockeybut when it comes down to it its nature taking its course. Some horses and some jockeys do not belong on the track.. For many the racing is just a way to make money and thats all they see ..but for many many more racing is a true love and the thrill of the ride is in there blood…These are the people that trully love and care for the horsesand yes this is a great majority of them out there… My fiance used to be a jockey and I have worked at stables that race as well as been at the track many times. You me or Peta arent going to change much within the industryits too big and there is too much money involved..I have lifelong love for horses and racing as well…The tradgety with Eight Belles was horrific and it has taken its toll on the ownerstrainers and the jockey as wellbut as horrific as it wasit is past and we must all move forward. The horse was not raced or beat to death !!! That horse was very loved and well cared for. What I wish we could change is the age of the horse when they can start racing..two year olds bones are not mature or formed enough to withstand the training a horse has to go through to prepare for a raceand if Peta is going to try and change anything I would love to see them work at changing the age stipulation on horses entering the track…I think that in itself would be a victory because we all know that horse racing isnt going to be stopped or banned…For all the horses that have lost there lives on the trackmy heart bleeds for each and ever onebut it wont be stoppedso why not work at a better solution and a safer enviroment for them

  • Rev. Meg Schramm says:

    I think vick is doing something I call “baiting.” He posts something outrageous and then waits to see which one of us will grab it and try to run with it. Having nibbled and spat it out I now move on.

  • Angela says:

    Sure Marie what ever! Maybe you should die entertaining us rather? And to Vick who is a complete idiot and obviously doesn’t understand horses A HORSE WILL NEVER GLADLY RUN A RACE BY ITSELF TO WIN. HORSES ARE CONDITIONED AND THAT HORSE ONLY KNOWS THAT IT MUST RUN NOTHING ELSE. IDIOT.

  • Dave says:

    I am a licensed veterinary technician. I worked with another technician who told me horror stories of when she worked at a racetrack. Needless to say she left in disgust and never went back. Don’t believe the lies horseracing people tell you about how their horses are treated “better than the jockeys”. It’s all about money to them nothing more. Go PETA!

  • kat says:

    So since you seem to have monitered every single race leading up to the Derby PeTA you should have noticed a certain race run Wednesday. There was a gray filly 9 I believe it was can’t remember her name but she was a longshot who threw her jockey right at the start of the race. Now according to you horses don’t like to race right? So what should that filly have done? Stop and run for the barn? Too bad that’s not what she did. That filly ran her butt off to finish the race no rider no nothing. Sure she hates to run. Now how many of you here have actually gone behind the barn so to speak and truly witnessed what goes on? I’ll bet not many of you and several more will lie about it. While it is true there are trainers who see horses as nothing but money what gives you the knowledge to say every trainer on earth sees horses as money? What gives you the knowledge to say every horse is abused? I guess you’ve asked the horses themselves since humans are only filthy liars right? Please PeTAget it straight. Horse racing can stand to clean up not die out.