NO BAILOUT For New Zealand's Dying Horse Racing Industry

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The New Zealand government recently announced a $72.5 million bailout package will be handed out to the racing industry. We must send them an urgent message that our tax dollars should not be used to prop up gambling and animal cruelty.

The fact is, New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing is on its knees, returning a deficit in recent years. If what is occurring in the United States is an indicator, New Zealand would do well by transitioning people out of this cruel industry, rather than propping it up.

According to U.S. based Horseracing Wrongs "Just since 2000, U.S. racing has suffered a net loss of 33 tracks; all other metrics – race days, races, field sizes, foal crops, and, yes, attendance are also down, some of these being by 50% of what they were just 30 years ago. But even more telling is that the bulk of the racing industry is being heavily subsidized, with many tracks wholly propped up by slots and other gaming revenue. Clearly, independent, full-service casinos and state lotteries are winning the market, and the competition is becoming that much stiffer with all-sports betting. But legislators, swayed by industry talk of job loss and “tradition,” keep sending lifeboats, which is not only an affront to our free-market principles, but allows for the continued abuse and killing of horses in the process."

Horses are mammals who have brains, can think, and feel, grow attached to their young, have fun and feel pain.

The group has also highlighted the cultural shift away from using animals as objects for entertainment. "Sensibilities toward animal exploitation, most especially regarding entertainment, are rapidly evolving. In just the past few years, Ringling Bros. has closed its doors for good, ending 146 years of animal abuse; SeaWorld, after being exposed by the film Blackfish, has discontinued the captive-breeding of orcas and remains in steady decline; the National Aquarium has vowed to release all of its remaining captive-dolphins to a seaside sanctuary by the end of next year; both Illinois and New York have outlawed the use of elephants in any form of entertainment; there are rodeo bans in cities as diverse as Pittsburgh, San Francisco, Fort Wayne, and Pasadena; and perhaps most relevant to the issue at hand, last November Floridians voted overwhelmingly to phase out greyhound racing in that state, a monumental win for animals that will in one fell swoop shutter 11 of the nation’s final 17 tracks, leaving dog racing in America all but dead."

Millions of New Zealand tax-payer dollars are being used to prop-up a dying industry. Take a stand and tell the government this is unacceptable, and your tax dollars should support essential services and sustainable and innovative business models.

The horse racing industry is a for-profit industry. Horses used for racing are bred specifically to be trained, ridden and gambled on. The business model is to make profit, and with the mountains of evidence emerging from every horse racing industry around the world, it is clear that the model is not to love horses and give horses a life worth living. As most owners and trainers have little more than a short-term financial interest in horses, when they are no longer profitable they are treated as a liability.

They can be kept in isolated tiny stalls for up to 23 hours a day, branded, auctioned and passed from owner to owner, controlled with nose ties, blinkers, tongue ties, bits, spurs and of course whips.

Trainers and veterinarians keep injured horses racing when they should be recovering, by giving them a variety of legal drugs (such as bute) to mask pain and control inflammation. Without the drugs the pain would be too much to bear. Trainers are so incentivised by the amount of prize money that they even resort to doping their horse with illegal “performance-enhancing drugs”, to push their horse past their limits. 

Tired and exhausted, they are forced to run at fast speeds, flogged by a human on their back, in order to reach the finish line and make the owner millions of dollars. 

One such injury common in racing is known as exercise-induced pulmonary haemorrhage which causes horses to bleed from their lungs.  Studies have shown that 90% of horses are bleeding deep in their lungs

Other common injuries, which often lead to death are cardiovascular collapse, shattered bones, lameness, fractures and tendon injuries.

A very lucky few racehorses are retired to pastures so that the industry can exaggerate those stories to avoid what happens otherwise. Thousands of horses are estimated to be unaccounted for in New Zealand thoroughbred racing each year.

As was recently exposed in Australia, many horses who become unprofitable or are simply unwanted are slaughtered.

This is not in line with New Zealand values, a nation of animal lovers.

So the question becomes, why should horse racing be bailed out? Because Winston Peters burrowed his way into Parliament? At a time when the options for other cruelty-free forms of entertainment are endless, we must stop gambling on and being entertained by the suffering and death of animals.

Our petition calls for the New Zealand government to review how useful and necessary this bailout package is long-term and to listen to the public of New Zealand. End the cruelty. End the killing. Invest New Zealanders’ money in sustainable, innovative and cruelty-free industries.



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