In a landmark move, the jockeys at the Penn National Race Course voted last week to refuse to ride in any races in which horses owned by Michael Gill would be running. Jockeys only get paid when they win, place, or show in races, so giving up a job is a serious move. The vote came after a horse owned by Gill, one of the horse-racing industry’s most prominent horse owners, collapsed 20 yards past the finish line at Penn National and had to be euthanized. Gill has a long history of animal fatalities, and this was the breaking point for the jockeys, who in the last 13 months alone saw 10 of Gill’s horses be euthanized after suffering injuries during races. At long last, Penn National has finally asked the Pennsylvania State Horse Racing Commission to investigate the fatal breakdowns of Gill’s horses. And just this week, Michael Gill announced that he is quitting the business because of the boycott and the investigation. Good riddance.
While Gill’s case might seem extraordinary, the problems within the industry are systemic. Every year, more than 1,000 thoroughbreds die on tracks in the U.S., and this death toll does not include those injured horses who are euthanized away from the track or the 15,000 thoroughbreds who are sent to slaughter in Canada and Mexico every year.
Part of the problem is that injured and sore horses are pumped up with medications and painkillers to keep them running when they should be resting. Racing these horses just to squeeze out a paycheck leads to breakdowns and death. Because many veterinarians in the horse-racing industry are complicit in these practices, PETA is calling on the Pennsylvania State Board of Veterinary Medicine to investigate the vets at Penn National—especially those used by Gill.
It goes without saying that you should shun all horse races and urge the National Thoroughbred Racing Association to enforce breeding limits. As evidenced by the case of Michael Gill—who is only a single person in a huge industry—this is a matter of life and death.
Written by Logan Scherer