By Bradford Cummings
“Sometimes I think this is a PETA site.” These words written two days ago about the Paulick Report by a commenter known as Johnny Mack was perhaps the lowest moment I've had since June 16, 2008, when Ray and I launched this Thoroughbred industry news and commentary website. While my tongue is somewhat planted in my cheek, those who know me also feel my pain. I am no fan of this animal rights organization that does more harm than good. They continually show their ignorance, most recently by calling the $5-million Apple Blossom Invitational—intended to attract Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta but open to other fillies and mares–a “match race”. Anyone armed with a sixth-grade education would understand a purse that large will draw many more than two horses.
And this is sad as their overall philosophy I tend to agree with. Animals cannot protect themselves by-and-large and so it is our duty to take care of them…until of course we eat them. But I digress.
To Johnny Mack's point, it seems with increasing veracity, the animal rights activists and horse industry haters are coming to our site in droves to turn any subject into a commentary on the horrors of horse slaughter, allegedly abusive whipping of some of our sport's biggest stars, and a perceived (by them) cruelty to all Thoroughbreds. In an ideal world, every horse would live out his retirement years in a pastoral setting, munching contentedly on plush bluegrass. The adrenaline of racing down a track at 35 mph would not cause our athletes, both human and equine, to get carried away. Additionally, I'd like to live on a rainbow made of gummy bears and marshmallows and buy a 10,000 square foot mansion with hugs and pixie sticks. But we can't have everything.
And this gets to my point. I know those of you completely sold out to the fight against real or perceived cruelty against animals mean well, but ultimately you hurt your message with this Johnny One-Note approach to advocacy. Ray and I are not alone in getting tired of the constant barrage of negativity. The real world tunes you out and therefore you weaken your voice.
I would hope everyone who frequents this site—many of you owners, breeders, or hands-on horsemen–abhor the mistreatment of horses. There are other industries to make much more money in than breeding or racing Thoroughbreds. Ultimately, the vast majority of horsemen do what they do because they have an absolute love affair with horses. They live and breathe the industry 24 hours a day and would never even think about becoming the next Ernie Paragallo. But the wingnuts who try to steer every conversation to fit their agenda treat everyone in the industry as if they have a death wish for these magnificent creatures.
Are there bad apples in the bunch? Of course. The aforementioned Paragallo and the much-maligned Michael Gill are the low hanging abuse fruit of the moment. But to even attempt to paint a broad brush on all horsemen or even something close to a majority is equally as sickening as the things that both Gill and Paragallo are accused of committing. I also heard about a schoolteacher who molested one of his students. Does that mean we should dedicate time to trashing all teachers? Of course not.
Okay, I feel better now. But before I'm through, I do want to give an explanation as to why we let so much vitriol on a site that quite frankly exists for the industry insider first and foremost. Outside of the obvious First Amendment reasoning (we do reserve the right to edit or delete comments we deem inappropriate—hey, it's our site, not yours), it is important that horsemen and women of all stripes understand the image problems our industry faces. Those nasty comments don't just come from one person who changes name to keep it fresh. They represent many people from all across the country and even the world who see this as a barbaric sport that preys on innocent animals. One of the hallmarks of the Paulick Report is taking on the 800-pound gorillas of this industry. We must do all that we can to make sure those who look for holes can find very few to poke.
Now I know I'm setting this up to be the all time greatest backlash in “horse hugger” commentary in the history of the internet and that's fine by me. For once, I have a feeling your comments will be interesting. But I certainly hope we can all learn from each other. We welcome your presence on this site. We want your point of view. But please, just broaden your horizons a bit. Pick your battles and we can all work for a better industry.
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