The following guest commentary by Alex Brown (www.alexbrownracing.com) discusses the recent implementation by some racetracks of a zero tolerance policy for horse slaughter and the unintended consequences those programs may have.. — Ray Paulick
By Alex Brown
Recently some racetracks in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic region have adopted a zero-tolerance policy for horse slaughter. They will no longer tolerate horses from their racetrack going to slaughter. They will penalize the connections of those horses that are discovered in the slaughter pipeline.
On the surface, this policy sounds excellent. It certainly is well meaning. If you combine this new policy with the resources that are now being targeted for rehoming racehorses by racetracks, it's even better. LongRun at Woodbine, the first I believe. Finger Lakes Thoroughbred Adoption Program. Philadelphia Park's new program, Turning for Home. ReRun and Monmouth, and so forth. All very good. (Note: these racetrack programs are not listed because of their zero-tolerance slaughter policy, but because they have assigned resources to support retiring racehorses).
The reality is, however, unless racetracks have done their research and truly understand the scope of the problem of their horses going to slaughter, and can provide alternatives for those horses, a no-slaughter policy may have unintended consequences. To ensure horses won't go to slaughter, a racetrack needs to provide opportunities to account for all of the horses that are currently being shipped out to slaughter. Those racetracks that are providing alternatives, noted above, are for the most part full. They can only take on additional horses if more adopters and foster homes are found. They simply cannot take on additional horses as demand for their services dictate.
So what happens to the horses at the racetracks with zero-tolerance slaughter policies? Racehorses that were going to public kill auctions?
A policy of zero tolerance for slaughter simply sends some of these horses “underground.” Rather than go to a public auction like New Holland, where they can be seen by private buyers and horse rescues, they go directly to kill buyer feedlots and kill pens. Rescues that once had access to these feedlots and kill pens will no longer be provided access.
Fewer racehorses may enter the slaughter pipeline, but more may ultimately be slaughtered.
Certainly as an industry we are becoming more aware of the problems facing our retiring stars. And kudos for the racetracks who have made these positive steps — especially those tracks that have assigned resources to actively support their retired stars. I just hope that we continue down this path so we are able to safeguard all our stars from slaughter, and not simply divert a number of them underground. Of course, we should also actively support a federal ban on the practice of horse slaughter.
Alex Brown was the web master for www.timwoolleyracing.com, a site that became Barbaro central. following the 2006 Preakness. Alex left Tim (on good terms of course) and the Fair Hill training center to travel North America, from one racetrack to the next. He started at Penn National where he spent three weeks as a freelance exercise rider. He then went to Presque Isle Downs, for five weeks during its inaurgural meet (September). He was a groom, hotwalker and exercise rider. Next stop was Keeneland for its October meet working for Eddie Kenneally. He was a salaried exercise rider. He then moved to Churchill Downs with the same job for a couple of weeks. In November of 2007 he moved to Sam Houston Race Park, as a salaried exercise rider, to work for Steve Asmussen. In April 2008 he moved to Woodbine to continue working for Steve Asmussen. This site will follow Alex's journey, as he also writes a book about Barbaro and Barbaro's legacy.
Alex will continue to provide general racing updates and other updates of interest to Fans of Barbaro with the hope that his site continues to serve as a platform for Fans of Barbaro.
Alex has worked in racing for the last twenty years in North America, at Fair Hill Training Center. He has also worked in racing in the UK, if only more briefly. Alex has an MBA, taught Internet Marketing for ten years, worked in the admissions office at the Wharton School, and has written a couple of whitepapers on transparency and the use of blogs.
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