*Barbaro's Tragic Injury: A Symptom of a Cruel Industry
Although Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro's tragic breakdown a few hundred yards into the Preakness was awful to watch, it should come as no surprise. Thoroughbreds are bred to have unnaturally delicate legs, are forced to run at ever-younger ages, and are drugged to mask injuries, which leads to horrifying and life-threatening injuries like Barbaro's. As a New York Daily News reporter remarked, “The thoroughbred race horse is a genetic mistake. It runs too fast, its frame is too large, and its legs are far too small. As long as mankind demands that it run at high speeds under stressful conditions, horses will die at racetracks.”
Drugs, Deception, and Death
The horse-racing industry is fraught with cruelty. It is common for trainers and veterinarians to use drugs—both legal and illegal—to treat injuries that horses incur while running. Lasix is a legal drug that stops bleeding in the lungs while also masking the presence of other drugs in a horse's system. Phenylbutazone is a commonly used painkiller that allows horses to run with minor injuries, which may result in more serious injuries.
Horses who do not “make the grade” are not always retired to grassy pastures. Tens of thousands of horses—including champion racehorses—are sold for slaughter every year. Some of their flesh is used in dog and cat food, at least 4 million pounds of horse flesh is incorporated annually into zoo diets for carnivores, and “prime cuts” are sold for human consumption in Europe and Asia.
A Dying Sport
Forcing horses to run—sometimes literally to their deaths—is losing its luster with the public. Actor Pamela Anderson made headlines earlier this year when she announced that she would boycott the Kentucky Derby because she didn't want to support cruelty to animals. The industry is in such decline in Maryland that the state's governor created a special commission to come up with ways to revive it. Just last year, the North Carolina General Assembly killed a bill that would have allowed racing in the state. Few tracks in North America have remained economically viable, and many are shifting their focus to slot machines in order to remain in business.
You Can Help
PETA is campaigning to get the Breeders' Cup's 2-year-old juvenile race, which is particularly harmful to young horses, canceled; many horses who have won that race have been forced to run injured or became “broken down” within the following year. Please call 1-800-RACE-CUP to voice your objections to this cruel event.
Please don't attend any events at the track, and let friends and family members know that horses will continue to suffer as long as they do.
Read PETA's horse-racing factsheet for more information about racing and what you can do to help horses.