PETA calls for new Thoroughbred retirement fund

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Press Release

As the Kentucky Derby fast approaches, PETA is calling for another major reform regarding the thoroughbred horseracing industry’s dirty secret—that more than 10,000 thoroughbred horses from the U.S. alone end up slaughtered for meat every year. At a news conference on Wednesday, the group will put a face on the issue by presenting Coming Home, whom PETA saved only hours before her impending slaughter. Coming Home is the granddaughter of 1990 Kentucky Derby winner Unbridled and the cousin of Eight Belles, who suffered a catastrophic breakdown in the 2008 Kentucky Derby. Coming Home raced 16 times without winning a race and was then purchased by a “killer” for meat for $200. She will now live out her life in peace and safety, but PETA wants the Jockey Club to adopt a concrete plan to safeguard the future of all other cast-off racers who are greedily bred and then disposed of when they do not win.


PETA has called a news conference for Wednesday, May 4 at 11 a.m. at the Holiday Inn Hotel at Louisville Airport.

“Coming Home—and the 10,000 thoroughbreds who are sentenced to a terrifying death every year—are proof that the glamour of horseracing is a deadly illusion,” says PETA Vice President Kathy Guillermo. “The racing industry and those who support it have these horses’ blood on their hands—but they can wash it off by ponying up for a retirement fund.”

PETA is urging the Jockey Club to adopt the group’s new Thoroughbred 360 Lifecycle Fund, which would provide funds for the retirement of racehorses who are now sent to slaughter. The fund, which could be administered by the Jockey Club Registry, would require owners and breeders to pay a $360 “retirement” fee whenever they register a foal, generating more than $20 million per year toward humane retirement. More than two-thirds of the 30,000 new thoroughbred foals bred every year by the racing industry in the U.S. will be rejected as losers. Equine rescue organizations can only save a minuscule percentage of them.

A video featuring footage of Coming Home at auction as well as footage of breeding at a prominent thoroughbred farm is available here.

For more information, please visit PETA.org.

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  • ace

    I am not a PETA fan, but they finally got something right.

  • big dog

    sounds like a good idea ….but… is the JC staffed and or capable of managing this program ?? $20 mil really isn’t a lot of money

  • luke

    so, while the horse industry’s pants are down on “no dopong”, why not talk about legislating humane and responsible treatment of former racehorses too?

  • Oliver

    I think this is a great idea. I’ve always thought that a percent of the stud fee/auction price of a horse should also go towards a collective retirement fund. It makes sense from a humane and ethical angle – but it also will help the sport’s struggling image. I have a lot of friends who (when they go to the track with me) love the excitement, beauty, and pagentry of racing – but are too turned off by the harsh realities of the sport. Overbreeding thoroughbreds as a business – and then tossing them to the side when they no longer are able to make a profit – is a cruel and unecessary business model.

  • Gail Vacca

    Positively sickens me that our industry is so inept at caring for our horses that we continue to have the likes of Peta telling us to what we need to do rather than stepping up on our own to do what is right!!

    Trainers/owners such as myself have been advocating for industry wide mandatory retirement funding for our horses for decades and yet no one seems to ever listen to what we have to say let alone publicize the retirement proposal’s we have put forth.

    That we have to endure this sort of continued media whip-lashing from “outsiders” such as Peta makes me want to gag.

    Just yesterday Peta contacted my organization for assistance with a neglected pony in downstate IL. When we offered to provide transport and long-term care for this pony should Peta provide the $294.00 needed to cover initial vetting costs, Peta declined stating that their budget did not allow for them to cover these costs. WHAT?!?!?! Kind of strange considering they were willing to provide funding to euthanize the pony (which here in IL runs appx. $350-$400). So let me make this clear — Peta was willing to spend $350-$400 to KILL the pony, yet unwilling to spend $294 to put the pony back on a path to wellness.

    Peta has an annual budget in the millions of dollars. The ILEHC has an annual budget under 100k and currently has 27 off the track thoroughbreds in our care. Amazing that a group of do-nothing’s get the attention of our racing media while the proposal’s brought forth by
    those of us out here in the real world of caring for our former racehorses, fall upon deaf ears. Positively disgraceful.

  • thomasMc

    PETA gets a whole article on their idea of race horse retirement while the thoroughbred retirement foundation gets blasted? PETA is a group of people with an agenda,the end of horse racing and other animal sports. They do not deserve the legitimasy you give them with this article. Do some research and find out how many animals PETA’s been involved in slaughtering.

  • KTQ

    They are right…

  • Gail Vacca

    Am I reading this right? Does Peta actually intend to bring this horse to their press conference in Louisville today?

    Here is the headline taken from the Peta website….

    “Mare Will Appear at Louisville News Conference on Eve of Derby as PETA Demands That Jockey Club Adopt Racehorse Retirement Plan”

    Now that would certainly be a genius move considering that any horse purchased at a one of these low-end auctions should immediately be quarantined for a minimum of 30 days, and according to the video they rescued this mare on April 29, 2011 at the Sugarcreek Livestock Auction in Sugarcreek Ohio.

    Instead of properly quarantining this mare, are they shipping her from Ohio to KY for use as a pawn in their anti-racing agenda? Go to their website and watch the video. The mare is shown to already be sporting a snotty nose and eyes.

    http://www.peta.org/mediacenter/news-releases/PETA-Saves-Granddaughter-of-Unbridled-Only-Hours-From-Slaughter.aspx

    Leave it to Peta to always put their true agenda (making BIG BUCKS) ahead of the actual welfare of the animals they claim to have concern for. Incredible!!

    Shame on us…we have only ourselves to blame that groups like Peta are able to garner publicity by airing industry dirty laundry that should have been washed, dried, folded, and put away – many years ago.

  • Questioner

    Is anyone actually certain that PETA will allow Coming Home to live out her days safely? Their record with small animals suggests they will, in fact, put her down as soon as she’s out of the spotlight. In Virginia, where they are required by state law to provide statistics on their animal intake, adoption, and euthanization rates, their 2010 rates were as follows: of 1,553 cats taken in, 1,507 were killed, and of 792 dogs taken in, 693 were killed. Their own records on this are located in PDF form at http://www.petconnection.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/peta2010.pdf.

    I’m in favor of a nationally funded Thoroughbred retirement program, too, but people should be aware of PETA’s shortcomings before jumping on their bandwagon.

  • Katherine

    PETA is right. If people would go to their website, http://www.peta.org, and see what they are all about, they’d be far less likely to criticize.

  • Chip

    I wish I could be there. I’m a simple man with very little money, but I LOVE horses, & I support Horse Rescue with every penny I have to spare. In my opinion, it is the horse breeder’s and owner’s responsibility to provide for the equine athletes after they retire. To put it simply, it is called compassion. Go for it, Peta. I fully support you on this issue.

  • Joe

    What does PETA spend each year on legal fees? It could not spend $294 shipping a neglected pony to a rescue?

    That said, excellent idea and thank you PETA for bringing this issue forward in such timely fashion.

    An automatic fee is a must along with creating a racing and breeding equine retirement fund to accept public donations toward the retirement of particular horses or into a general fund; donations from breeders, previous or current owners and others offering a permanent home or pension to certain horses which would be always indicated with a heart-shaped * next to their names, etc.

    Rescues should only have to worry about taking care of horses. On top of donations, fees should be collected each time a horse is registered, consigned and sold, win a stakes race. All professionals including sales companies, track owners and executives, professionals like veterinarians, farriers and shipping companies should participate as well. So should horseplayers.

    All charitable efforts organized by the horse racing industry should be exclusively dedicated to support the welfare and safety of its very own two and four legged participants because the lives of racing and breeding horses are at risk and thousands of Thoroughbreds (and Quarter horses and other racing breeds) are handled, transported, auctioned and slaughtered in appalling ways each year. The will, the help, the expertize, the land are there. Only dependable and adequate funding is missing to assure that all racing and breeding horses at risk are treated with dignity.

    The horse racing industry should dedicate all its charitable efforts toward saving its own until all is well with it.

  • Cindy Rullman

    Hallelujah! – The cavalry is on the way and maybe NOW the Thoroughbred industry will do something to hold its reckless breeders, owners and trainers accountable for their conspicuous absence of leadership and good stewardship.

  • RHanlon

    I was part of the mare that pulled that mare from Sugarcreek then transported her to safety.
    While you may or may not be a fan of PETA, at least they’re doing something. They’re not asking for racing or breeding to end – or even addressing the doping issues – they’re only asking that those who breed have some accountability and be responsible for their actions instead of carelessly disposing of those who don’t perform to their standards.
    Greed often trumps humanity – change is needed!

  • RHanlon

    Oh. And PETA is not an animal shelter or rescue, they provide humane euthanasia – so those numbers will be high.
    It’s all very clear and public information. They may go to extremes at time – but those extremes shed light on truths most would rather ignore and they have prompted changes that benefit the lives (and humane deaths) of those either no longer wanted or raised for human consumption.
    Any organization willing to dedicate their efforts to animal welfare has my full support!

  • Gail Vacca

    #9 — I too wonder what Peta will do with the mare once they are done with their publicity stunt? Who is caring for the mare? Peta has no equine or other actual shelter that I’m aware of. Did they place the horse into the care of a proper rescue? From the looks of the surroundings on the video, I would say not. And, are they providing funding for the mare or is someone else picking up the tab?

  • Priscilla

    Beyond the politics of PETA, what everyone needs to focus on is the fact that it does not take PETA to rescue a racehorse. Anyone, anytime, in any state where there is racing can attend a local livestock auction and rescue racehorses from slaughter all day long. That is the disgraceful situation that still remains unaddressed in any meaningful way by the racing industry. The responsibility for this extends far beyond the breeders, and the solution will take a concerted effort by every segment of the industry. Supportive “language” is not going to save these horses. Let’s see some action.

  • MED

    Are there a bunch of PETA members posting here? I can’t believe some of what I’m reading from supposed-racing supporters. Have you done your research on the lunatic fringe PETA? I’m with Gail on being embarrassed that it’s taking a whack job group like them to bring this to national attention. My first thought when I saw Ray’s headline was, “It’s Derby time, heeeeere’s PETA”. But the TB industry brings this on itself by being REactive instead of PROactive. Last week I was thinking it’s fantastic that drugs are finally being addressed!! Then we find out it’s because of a legislation threat. Legislation and negative publicity are the laxatives of this industry-it only makes any movement when being forced to do so. Isn’t it time for some fiber?

    What’s the status of the starving TRF horses, anyway? That sure fell off the radar.

  • Mona

    If it takes PETA to step up and raise awareness of the horrific Horse Slaughtering, then, good for PETA. In my opinion, at times it takes extreme measures to make an impact to make changes. PETA is a master on raising awareness.

  • http://www.racefund.org R.A.C.E. Fund

    A good idea but the funding also needs to come from a percentage of the purses and racetrack management needs to contribute as well. More reputable retirement facilities and sanctuaries need to be developed and an endowment set up with a portion of the revenue so funds are available for long term retirees.

  • http://www.racefund.org Patricia Bewley

    IF it takes PETA to make this industry do the right thing and fund racehorse retirment with percentage of purse money, breeders fee, mangement contributions for perpetual funding , then so be it. It is long over due that the care and retirement funding burden be on the industry, after all that is where the money is.

  • caroline

    Agree with ace, but also with RACE. It takes more than $360 per registration – someone’s math is wrong. JC reports only c. 30K per year registered, not the 55K per year that PETA’s numbers imply are needed to raise the funds they say this will raise annually. Maybe they are looking at the mares bred numbers which are closer to that at least? In any case, $360 per horse registered ain’t going to cut it if the goal is a 401K to guarantee admission for every live TB foal to a retirement / rescue / retraining facility. That is about 10% of what’s needed. It’s a start.

  • Lost In The Fog

    Some of the comments in this thread underscore just how completely dysfunctional and unethical this industry is. Instead of addressing the substance of the point PETA is making some of you are wasting energy attacking PETA rather than accepting the undeniable fact that on this topic they are right. There is nothing to attack. The industry should be ashamed of itself for failing to step up to the plate and take care of animal/athletes who are no longer able to compete. I’m no fan of PETA but I can’t fathom how anyone with a conscience could do anything less than completely embrace the idea that the industry MUST do a substantially better job of caring for retired horses. Anything less is criminal. So far the industry as a whole has done virtually nothing to clean its own house and this is the price they pay for that arrogance and lack of moral fiber. The FEDS are coming after us for race-day meds because we did nothing and they’re going to come after us for this as well because we did nothing.

  • PS

    In response to Caroline: The PETA proposal, in addition to a $360 foal registration fee starting in 2012, would include a one-time $360 fee for broodmare and stallion registration effective 2012; and it also includes a $360 fee for every ownership transfer (including claims) effective 2013. So combined, these fees would total approximately $20 million per year.

  • caroline

    Thanks for responding PS. So it’s actually similar to something that I’ve been wanting to see – particularly with the ownership transfer fee – although I think it still falls short of adequate financing. I suspect that $20m is not going to be sufficient to induce already struggling non profits to intake every thoroughbred that needs safe haven nationally.

    Given current grant and donor funding (both down), high hay costs driving out adopters, and resulting increase in average time spent to rehab and adopt out, a year’s support would be the minimum I’d want to take on an extra horse, especially an injured one. $20 million represents $667 per registered horse, at 30K registered TBs a year and – at least in southern California – that’s not going to last very long.

    Nonetheless, any proposal for systematic funding of every registered TB is a vast improvement over the current industry void, so this is much appreciated.

  • suffy downs

    It might be interesting to know how this horse got to the kill pen. She was owned by her breeder/trainer her whole life and I assume was claimed from him in a start 9/12/10. Raced once for new owner 11/2/10, her final start. 7 months later shows up at auction. It’s entirely possible a non-racing owner had her at that point, or her original owner/breeder would have taken her back if he had known. Just sayin.

  • DaltonJ

    Suffy, listed owner and trainer on her last race at Beulah Park is Danny Lang, not the breeder David Bogue. Unfortunately, Coming Home last raced at one of the lowest tracks in the country. She is not the first and wont be the last coming directly off this track (and other OH and KY tracks for that matter), and ending up at Sugarcreek. I am sure there will be more there today!

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