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