FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Kentucky Derby Champions: You Bet They Die

Photo by Benjamin Thomas | CC BY 2.0

This Saturday, May 5th, brings us the 144th Kentucky Derby, with the Preakness (May 19th) and Belmont Stakes (June 9th) galloping close behind.

The Kentucky Derby pits 20 horses against each other, and the owner of the fastest will collect more than a million dollars.

Gronkowski, a horse saddled with the silly name of a New England Patriots tight end, was to run on Saturday. The horse, who endured a trip to England to qualify for the Derby, reportedly has a “minor” infected head wound that led to a fever, and cannot be shipped to Louisville.

Gronkowski is owned by Phoenix Thoroughbreds, a recent arrival into what insiders call the international bloodstock scene, where buying animals is all about return on investment. No wonder the animals are kept moving with drugs.

While Gronkowski won’t bring the expected ROI this year, the horse personally misses nothing but danger.

The Other Side of the Tracks

Every year, people celebrate Derby Day with parties, mint juleps, and sunbonnets. This year they’ll be marking the tenth anniversary of the end of Eight Belles, raced to death in the 2008 Kentucky Derby.
Perhaps they’ll recall the two horses who died at the 2016 Preakness in Baltimore. Pramedya’s leg broke. And after winning the first race, Homeboykris collapsed and died before making it back to the barn.
Ten years prior, Barbaro won the 2006 Derby, but shattered a leg in the Preakness, and died soon after. Remember?

Or do we forget because the deaths are so common, so constant? Every year, 500 horses, more or less, die at a racetrack. Every year, spectators will gasp hundreds of times as they see with their own eyes that racing is animal torture.

Most racehorses who come off the track intact won’t live much longer. Some racers or jumpers die hours or days after an event, typically from leg injuries or bleeding in the lungs.

And if they do live, what kind of life will they have? Perhaps you’ve seen them dragging new owners and their merchandise along Route 30 through Amish country in rural Pennsylvania, or hauling tourists around a hectic city.

Not to mention the start of the pipeline—routine culling of unwanted young thoroughbreds. Consider that many tens of thousands of foals are born yearly to “bloodstock” worldwide, fewer than half are selected to race.

More than 100,000 thoroughbreds a year in the United States will go to killer buyers, reported Forbes in 2011. And as long as the industry exists, it will produce surplus horses. Insofar as horse slaughter is barred in the United States, the discarded horses just get shifted to hellish trips to slaughter in Mexico or Canada. The transport staff can’t use electric prods on the horses, so the Department of Agriculture says they’re getting “proper care.” Jesus wept.

A Collective Awakening

Yes, as I child I watched jumping and racing events. I unfolded scraps with names picked out of flowery hats for random bets. Who hasn’t? A race is presented as a cultural event, with a storied history. A European history, rooted in the invasions of the ancient Romans, who fancied chariot races in the circus.

Oliver Cromwell banned racing for encouraging “wicked, and secret Plots and Devices.” The wickedest plot is no secret any more. Public attitudes about animals in spectacles are changing.
I’d like to expect a collective awakening, in which we adopt the same aversion to animal racing as we have to putting bulls in rings or orcas in tanks.

I’d like to think a grown-up society would stop the purpose-breeding and use of horses, all uses of horses: racing, jumping and showing, fox hunting, barrel racing, polo, policing, dragging our stuff around town, or just having horses to show off wealth and take up 81 million acres of developed space. Let them have their own space, on their own terms.

Meanwhile, I’ll pass on the mint julep, thanks.

More articles by:

Lee Hall, J.D., LL.M., is an independent author, an adjunct professor of law and legal studies, a retail worker, and the creator of a studio for the Art of Animal Liberation on Patreon, for which support is always welcome and deeply appreciated.

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
August 19, 2019
John Davis
The Isle of White: a Tale of the Have-Lots Versus the Have-Nots
John O'Kane
Supreme Nihilism: the El Paso Shooter’s Manifesto
Robert Fisk
If Chinese Tanks Take Hong Kong, Who’ll be Surprised?
Ipek S. Burnett
White Terror: Toni Morrison on the Construct of Racism
Arshad Khan
India’s Mangled Economy
Howard Lisnoff
The Proud Boys Take Over the Streets of Portland, Oregon
Steven Krichbaum
Put an End to the Endless War Inflicted Upon Our National Forests
Cal Winslow
A Brief History of Harlan County, USA
Jim Goodman
Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue is Just Part of a Loathsome Administration
Brian Horejsi
Bears’ Lives Undervalued
Thomas Knapp
Lung Disease Outbreak: First Casualties of the War on Vaping?
Susie Day
Dear Guys Who Got Arrested for Throwing Water on NYPD Cops
Weekend Edition
August 16, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Uncle Sam was Born Lethal
Jennifer Matsui
La Danse Mossad: Robert Maxwell and Jeffrey Epstein
Rob Urie
Neoliberalism and Environmental Calamity
Stuart A. Newman
The Biotech-Industrial Complex Gets Ready to Define What is Human
Nick Alexandrov
Prevention Through Deterrence: The Strategy Shared by the El Paso Shooter and the U.S. Border Patrol
Jeffrey St. Clair
The First Dambuster: a Coyote Tale
Eric Draitser
“Bernie is Trump” (and other Corporate Media Bullsh*t)
Nick Pemberton
Is White Supremacism a Mental Illness?
Jim Kavanagh
Dead Man’s Hand: The Impeachment Gambit
Andrew Levine
Have They No Decency?
David Yearsley
Kind of Blue at 60
Ramzy Baroud
Manifestos of Hate: What White Terrorists Have in Common
Evaggelos Vallianatos
The War on Nature
Martha Rosenberg
Catch and Hang Live Chickens for Slaughter: $11 an Hour Possible!
Yoav Litvin
Israel Fears a Visit by Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib
Neve Gordon
It’s No Wonder the Military likes Violent Video Games, They Can Help Train Civilians to Become Warriors
Susan Miller
That Debacle at the Border is Genocide
Ralph Nader
With the Boeing 737 MAX Grounded, Top Boeing Bosses Must Testify Before Congress Now
Victor Grossman
Warnings, Ancient and Modern
Meena Miriam Yust - Arshad Khan
The Microplastic Threat
Kavitha Muralidharan
‘Today We Seek Those Fish in Discovery Channel’
Louis Proyect
The Vanity Cinema of Quentin Tarantino
Bob Scofield
Tit For Tat: Baltimore Takes Another Hit, This Time From Uruguay
Nozomi Hayase
The Prosecution of Julian Assange Affects Us All
Ron Jacobs
People’s Music for the Soul
John Feffer
Is America Crazy?
Jonathan Power
Russia and China are Growing Closer Again
John W. Whitehead
Who Inflicts the Most Gun Violence in America? The U.S. Government and Its Police Forces
Justin Vest
ICE: You’re Not Welcome in the South
Jill Richardson
Race is a Social Construct, But It Still Matters
Dean Baker
The NYT Gets the Story on Automation and Inequality Completely Wrong
Nino Pagliccia
Venezuela Retains Political Control After New US Coercive Measures
Gary Leupp
MSNBC and the Next Election: Racism is the Issue (and Don’t Talk about Socialism)
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail