The Link Between Horse Racing and Horse Slaughter, Part I

"37% of those horses are going to be slaughtered because they couldn’t run fast enough….So, it’s run for your life." Actor Paul Sorvino

HorseThose involved in the business of horse racing are always looking for pedigrees that produce smart, fast runners. Horse slaughter makes it economical for owners to over breed horses to try to produce faster, better horses for racing. Because owners can make money from the brutal slaughter of their horses, they have an incentive to over breed.  

Indeed, breeding for ever faster racing horses has become big business. A multi-million dollar business. The horses produced are throwaways as breeders and horse racing enthusiasts look for the "winners". The breeding only for speed has left many horses fragile, with congenital defects, unable to start very often and many times not at all. That doesn’t bother the industry which is satisfied with a horse capable of only a few starts as long as they are on top. 

The sad death of Eight Belles at this year’s Kentucky Derby exemplifies this careless indifference towards the lives of these beautiful animals. After Eight Belles crossed the finish line in 2nd place, her front ankles shattered and she fell to the ground. The horse was euthanized there on the track.  It is believed she may have broken one or more of the ankles before the finish line, but the jockey, Gabriel Saez whipped her till she collapsed after crossing the finish line.

Millions of viewers watched this horrific spectacle.

Ending the slaughter of horses for human consumption may not end horse racing or improve the treatment of horses caught in that "sport", but if horse slaughter is illegal, there is less incentive for over breeding.   

Watch Part I of the video below. Click here to watch Part II of the video.  


Click here for more information on the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act now pending in Congress, where it stands now, and how you can help pass it!

Remember it’s an election year. The three remaining presidential candidates, all Senators, have all signed up as co-sponsors to this Act. No one should be elected to Congress without agreeing to co-sponsor this legislation. No member of Congress should be re-elected without signing on as co-sponsor to H.R. 503 or S.B. 311.

Contact Animal Law Coalition for help in convincing Congressional candidates or your representative or senators to sign on now as co-sponsors!  


Click here to call for a tribute to Eight Belles before next year’s running of the Kentucky Derby.

Click here to read  the white paper issued by the Veterinarians for Equine Welfare on horse slaughter.

Click here to read John  Holland’s point by point refutation of the AVMA’s pro-slaughter arguments.

Click here to read how you can help restore the protections of the Wild Free Roaming Horses and Burros Act.


7 thoughts on “The Link Between Horse Racing and Horse Slaughter, Part I”

  1. Dear Ms. Allen,

    I don’t think it’s at all fair that you grossly misstate the facts concerning the death of Eight Belles in this years Kentucky Derby. You’ve falsely reported the ride of Gabriel Saez, which I attribute this to your untrained eye when watching a horse race. I’m a retired jockey and Saez never hit Eight Belles even once after the wire. Certainly not until she collapsed there on the track!

    I’m surprised you’d go to such lengths to prove your link between slaughter, and horse racing. So far, . . . that you’d fabricate such a story as this, and mislead your readers!! I’m still involved in the horse racing industry, and while I know we are in need of many changes, (and I for one, am looking forward to seeing many of them happen), I was however very shocked by what you’d stated about Jockey Saez, and you’re intimating that Eight Belles had broken her ankles before the wire. There is no evidence that has led anyone of the professionals who tended to Eight Belles after her tragedy to come to such a conclusion. I’ve not seen it written in one of the many interviews on her that her own Veterinarian commented on, or any one of her attendants say they believe that she’d had any issues before she actually collapsed. Your statements are without merit.

    Mostly I’m personally offended by your statement, “this just exemplifies the careless indifference towards the lives of these beautiful animals!” Reading that made me feel quite sick!! Mostly because you’d ever believe so many people could feel indifferent towards such a tragedy. I didn’t realize you are reporting personal opinions here, and not the facts.

    You just made up a story not unlike PETA had done, right after the Derby! It’s out of the scope of reality and is neither helpful, necessary, nor one word is true pertaining to the ride by Saez, or the lack of concern by the industry or those in it, nor beliefs that Eight Belles having suffered any injury at all before the wire! Maybe you believe it!

    Your insinuations are nothing more than an attempt at more drama, to put your own spin on the events that occurred, and what they were is tragic, and nobody was indifferent! How dare you! Your statements are based on nothing but your own imagination. No evidence of any of your accusations. This is not fair, nor is it responsible journalism.

    Gabriel Saez doesn’t deserve your demeaning remarks as to his riding performance either. You owe him an apology, but I doubt he’ll ever get one! What you said was mean spirited, and falsely stated, PERIOD!! Didn’t resemble truth!! You should really watch the replays of this race again, with someone who knows what they’re looking at. You’re so wrong, and I’m not trying to offend you in any way Ms. Allen, but what you stated isn’t truth at all. Far from it.

    Please won’t you consider what I’ve said? Review and amend the text in your article, please!!

    Thanks for Your Consideration in this Matter,
    Laura J. Hearn

  2. Dear Ms Allen

    while your piece concerning the unseemly disassociation between some horse owners and trainers and their horses, and the blatent inhumanity of the casual, cavalier attitudes of some, who, are fortunately in the minority in the world of thoroughbred racing, your comments concerning the tragic death of Eight Belles, and your disrespectful and dishonest portrayal of Gabriel Saez is appalling and in my opinion, with respect to Mr. Saez, is libelous.

    Your piece would have been adequately compelling and have tremendous impact without the above mentioned comments. The misreporting of the cause of Eight Belles’ death and your unkind assertions about Mr. Saez treatment of the filly, cheapen and discredit the whole substance of it. You owe Mr. Saez a retraction. You owe horse lovers and fans of racing a disclaimer, explaining that you are uninformed on the subject of the death of the filly and cause, and should not have questioned or contradicted the findings of the experts who tended to the filly at the track and who performed her necropsy.

    Misrepresenting this incident, which is without question one of the most upsetting and polarizing events in recent racing history, attracting the attention of many who otherwise pay little attention to racing, makes your entire article, which otherwise had great value, appear like a tabloid story. One that would garner no more attention than what one might browse through while standing in line at grocery store checkout. That is really unfortunate and extremely regrettable.

    Cheryl Jones
    Lakewood, CO

  3. Dear Laura,

    The jockey of Eight Belles, Gabriel Saez did not hit Eight Belles after the finish line. And whoever believed her ankles broke before the finish line have no idea what they are talking about. First, there was video that was conveniently ignored that was shown on tv of Eight Belles galloping out before she collapsed. The jockey didn’t hit her once. Second, The owner of Eight Belles released her autopsy report that clearly shows that not only did she not have any prior injury, but she was not running on broken legs. I am sorry for those people who feel they have to misrepresent the facts to prove their position, when there is absolutely no need to do so. Sadly, alot of racehorses find themselves in slaughter plants, but there are plenty of owners and trainers who do care about their horses, and you should give them credit, instead of lumping them in with the few who don’t care.

    Lynda P

  4. Ms. Allen,

    While some of your article has some truth to it, I think it unfair to categorically accuse all breeders and owners for overbreeding and, indeed breeding “throw away horses”. While it is possible there are breeders/owners/trainers out there who are involved in the sport only to “make a buck”, at the same time there are a great number of folks who carefully breed and breed for health and soundness. They do not consider their horses “throw aways” and a lot of thought and care go into their programs. How can you categorically accuse the entire Industry of not caring, as well?

    I think particularly now, that one needs to be very careful not to make false accusations, especially in this industry which, thanks to animal rights crazies, such as PETA and some others, does their best to spread shocking mistruths, and false information to aid their agenda, not knowing anything about the industry, inciting those who are not educated about the sport to dishonor it, and point fingers and making the connection between racing and horse slaughter.

    As far as Eight Belles is concerned, her jockey did not touch her at all. To accuse him of overwhipping is grievious. This is another one of those nasty vicious mistatements that not only hurt her jockey,Gabriel Saez but her owner and trainer badly. Their grief was palpable as was the grief of those who saw her tragic accident.

    I was bitterly disappointed by your article and some of its misrepresentations of the sport. Let’s get the facts out on the table.

    Jo Singer

  5. Thank you for your comments. But to say "it is possible there are breeders/owners/trainers out there who are involved in the sport only to "make a buck"" is surely disingenuous at best.  No one is suggesting there aren’t  people who race and love and take good care of their horses, but this is not a matter of a few bad apples, as several commenters suggest. It is an industrywide problem of breeding for speed, overbreeding, running horses on injuries with steroids and other drugs, and using slaughter to justify this economically. This has become about money for the industry, not the love of horses and racing.   Please read what industry experts had to say during Congressional hearings on June 19 this year: 



  6. This tragedy has not been misrepresented. Dr. Celeste Kunz, a veterinarian with a great deal of experience with race horses, believes that this catastrophic injury may have begun when Eight Belles switched the lead from left to her right leg as she turned into the stretch. She was fatigued at that point and the injury began to occur at that point, before the race was over. 

    The jockey did continue to hit Eight Belles, though he claims it was to move her away from the rail. No one said he  hit her after the finish line. Why is it okay every to whip a horse?  

    The point here is that horses are being exploited by an industry that resembles less and less the sport of kings. Instead, it is about the profits to be made. The horses are as a whole bred for speed, not durability. They are many times overbred. (Slaughter makes overbreeding profitable.) They are run with injuries masked with steroids and other drugs. There are more and more cheap races added to try to draw in the public with their gambling dollars.  

    Why aren’t the commenters angry about this? Why aren’t they taking steps to reclaim this sport from a seedy industry that is using their beloved animals in this way?



  7. What is said in this article is not wrong. It doesn’t go far enough. So what if the necropsy report found no prior injuries. Larry Jones the trainer was quoted as saying he knew 8 Belles stumbled when pulling up. Why would he race a horse that had a condition that made her stumble?? Why would he make her run at full speed with that condition?

    Thank you, Laura for raising these concerns.

    Here is the quote from the trainer in the article by JEFFREY McMURRAY

    LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) — Eight Belles had no diseases or pre-existing bone abnormalities that caused the filly to break down after finishing second in the Kentucky Derby.
    Autopsy results reviewed by The Associated Press on Thursday confirm compound fractures of both front legs at the fetlock joints. They also describe lacerated skin on both legs, an absence of joint fluid in the damaged areas and congested lungs.
    The filly also experienced a bruised head and hemorrhaging in the left thyroid gland, which the report blamed on her fall after the initial injuries.
    “No pathology was found to indicate the occurrence of any other catastrophic event beside the fractured legs,” wrote Kentucky chief veterinarian Lafe Nichols, who performed the tests at the University of Kentucky’s Livestock Disease Diagnostic Center.
    Eight Belles was euthanized on the track at Churchill Downs after collapsing while jogging about a quarter-mile past the finish line. Stewards found no evidence she was injured during the race.
    There also will be routine post-race drug-testing and further medication tests requested by Eight Belles trainer Larry Jones. Jones has said he wants the extra scrutiny to prove the large, muscular filly wasn’t on steroids at the time.
    A lab at Iowa State University is conducting the drug examination on behalf of the Kentucky Horse Racing Authority, with results not expected for at least several days. The necropsy — as the autopsy is known in horse racing circles — said no toxicology test had been requested but the samples were being saved in case one is.
    Jones said in a phone interview Thursday he believes the horse just tripped over her own feet.
    “She’s bad about stumbling while pulling up,” Jones said. “She’s doesn’t pick her feet up very high. It’s one reason she could run very fast and far. She had the perfect motion for being effective and efficient. However, those horses who do that have a tendency to want to stumble.”

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