Commentary: Horse Racing Looks Toward Progress, Not 'Sterilization To Extinction' - Horse Racing News | Paulick Report
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Commentary: Horse Racing Looks Toward Progress, Not ‘Sterilization To Extinction’

When the holders of extreme views vie for attention, they often rely on the cheap tricks of skilled propagandists, like using highly charged and often outrageous language to make emotional appeals infused with urgency. Claims are often built around a kernel of truth so that they seem credible. And comparisons are made between their issues and common human experiences; the more emotional the better.

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

Mr. Battuello's column bends and fabricates information to create outrage and sympathy by pulling at heartstrings. He uses phrases such as, “torn from his mother as a mere babe,” “like a child being locked in a closet,” “thrust into intensive training,” or “alone and terrified” while paying little attention to the facts or science of domesticated animals.

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

Instead of spreading lies, the horse racing industry is working to keep the wellbeing of the horses front and center with new laws like the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act (HISA) of 2020. Early on, this bill was championed by The Jockey Club, which is the Thoroughbred breed registry in the U.S., Canada, and Puerto Rico, and other leading industry organizations, including the New York Racing Association. HISA is a prime 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. Within the past two decades, California has seen a 60% decrease in horse fatalities due to reforms by the California Horse Racing Board. 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, breaking, stalling, and other terms are cruel for horses. On the contrary, these practices are beneficial to a horse. Weaning isn't tearing a foal from its mother but is the transition period from mare's milk to increased levels and various types of foods. Breaking is training a horse to be ridden and is used for all breeds and all disciplines of riding.

Tools such as lip chains and eye blinders are used to help horses, not torture them as Mr. Battuello would have people believe.

What people should know, including Mr. Battuello, is how seriously the industry is addressing the health and safety of horses. In 2008, The Jockey Club created the Equine Injury Database (EID) to track race injuries. In contrast to Mr. Battuello's “estimated” claim of 2,000 deaths per year, the actual fatality rate is more than 50% lower, and it was at its lowest by 29.5% since 2009 last year.

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

But Mr. Battuello's outrageous claims shouldn't surprise because Horse Racing Wrongs' goal isn't to just end horse racing, but end all use of domesticated animals for food, as pets, or as service animals. In a now-deleted statement on his website, Battuello wrote, “We hold that no animal should be bred, domesticated, and used for human purposes. The evil, as we see it, begins and ends with animal property.

And Mr. Battuello's status as an extremist representative from a fringe group is evidenced in a now-deleted blog he wrote for the Times Union in 2014. His writing advocated for living in a “pet-less society” and called for every domesticated animal to be “sterilized to extinction” to stop future generations from ever existing.

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

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

 

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