End the Subsidized Abuse and Killing of Horses in Pennsylvania
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Pennsylvania’s horseracing industry receives almost $250 million in corporate welfare every year – over $3 billion since the subsidies began in 2005. It is far and away the most subsidized industry in PA. And this for a business that, as measured by demand (wagers, attendance), has been in steep decline for decades. What’s worse, this massive taxpayer bailout of a decidedly nonessential industry – there are roughly 10,000 racing jobs in an overall state workforce of six million – has all come at the expense of public education – our children and young adults. To help put this in proper perspective, the per horse subsidy is nearly three times the per student subsidy (for those in the State System of Higher Education).
There is, of course, another cost to all this – one measured in lives. Since 2010, more than 1,400 horses have died at the state’s three flat tracks; more, still, have perished at the three harness tracks. In fact, in 2019, Parx led the country in kills with 59. Nationally, Horseracing Wrongs has documented over 7,000 deaths at U.S. tracks just since 2014; we estimate that over 2,000 horses are killed racing or training across America every year – with hundreds more dying in their stalls. As if not enough, most – some 10,000-20,000 annually – spent or simply no-longer-wanted racehorses are mercilessly slaughtered at career’s end. Yes, slaughtered.
Still, the killing is but a part of the story. There is, too, the everyday abuse. To wit:
Grinding of Unformed Bodies: Young, would-be racehorses are thrust into intensive training at 18 months – years before their bodies are fully developed. On the maturation chart, these equine babes are the rough equivalent of kindergartners.
Confinement and Isolation: Racehorses, innately social and herd-oriented, are kept locked – alone – in tiny 12×12 stalls for over 23 hours a day. Cruelty, defined.
Negation: Practically all the horse’s natural instincts and desires are thwarted, creating an emotional and mental suffering that is brought home with crystal clarity in the stereotypies commonly seen in confined racehorses – cribbing, bobbing, weaving, pacing, digging, kicking, even self-mutilation.
Control and Subjugation: Horseracing is lip tattoos, nose chains, lip chains, blinkers, tongue ties, cribbing collars, mouth bits, and, of course, whips.
Drugging and Doping: Racehorses are incessantly injected, legally and otherwise, with myriad performance-enhancing, injury-masking, and pain-numbing chemicals.
Commodification: By law, racehorses are literal chattel. They are ever being bought, sold, traded, and dumped – a stressful, tenuous existence that in and of itself causes pain. In fact, studies show that up to 90% of racehorses suffer from chronic ulcers.
The Philadelphia Inquirer’s Editorial Board has thrice condemned the subsidies keeping horseracing afloat, and most recently called for racing “to be put out of its misery.” Governor Wolf has proposed redirecting some 200 million of those annual subsidy dollars to fund college scholarships for 44,000 students. In other words, the time to act is now. While we would love to see a day when horseracing is banned – like dogracing, which has been outlawed in 41 states – for now we are simply asking that the subsidies stop. This eminently just, long overdue measure would be a win-win for Pennsylvania: good for our children, good for our horses.
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