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Business people horse racingMONTEREY DOWNS E.I.R. TO BE RELEASED TODAY

Sports fans love statistics and going for records. But here’s some numbers you probably won’t find on the sports pages – the death rate for thoroughbred race horses.

The Del Mar track in Southern California is two weeks or eight days into a 54-day season and already at least 11 horses have died, according to the Veterinarian Reports for the first two weeks. Five died in the first week and six in the second.

That’s a rate of 1.37 horses killed per race day. Perhaps they are going for the track record! Over the past four years the average race horse death rate at Del Mar has only been 0.35 and they are well ahead of that, though admittedly it is early in the season. Also, over that same four-year period the highest death rate was 0.47 in 2012.  That’s a lot of dead horses for a $2 bet.

I’m writing about this because of the proposed Monterey Downs racetrack at Fort Ord, whose environmental impact report is scheduled for public release today. Here’s the connection:

“Monterey Downs draws inspiration from Del Mar, which by most accounts is the classiest and most successful track in California.”

In other words, if you want to know what the developers and promoters of Monterey Downs have in mind as their model, look to Del Mar, where horses are dying with predictable regularity. Is that what we want for Seaside? For our young people? For the CSUMB students who will matriculate immediately adjacent to the proposed Monterey Downs track? If not, we should just say “NO to Monterey Downs!”

Bill Weigle is professor emeritus of mathematics and environmental studies at the University of Maine at Machias. He lives in Seaside. 

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Seventeen Annual Racehorse Deaths Predicted at the Proposed Monterey Downs — and What It Means for the Upcoming Elections

If the proposed Monterey Downs is built, is modeled after the Del Mar Race Track in Southern California, and it has a 50-day racing season (as discussed on pages 2-34 of the Monterey Downs Draft Environmental Impact Report available on the City of Seaside web site), then we could expect approximately 17 racehorse deaths per season at Monterey Downs. Here’s how I arrived at that estimate.

The California Horse Racing Board (CHRB) publishes the Stewards’ Minutes for all of the tracks in California. Since 2011 those minutes have been published weekly and include a Veterinarian Report that lists the number of deceased horses for the week. Here are the data by year since 2012 for Del Mar.

  • 2015       23 deaths       60 race days        .38 deaths per day
  • 2014       11 deaths        51 race days       .22 deaths per day
  • 2013       9 deaths         34 race days       .26 deaths per day
  • 2012       16 deaths        37 race days       .47 deaths per day
  • Total      77 deaths        219 race days      .35 deaths per day

So in a 50-day season at Monterey Downs we could expect approximately the deaths to equal 50 times .35,  or 17!

By the way, Del Mar is not the exception when it comes to racehorse deaths. The web site Horseracingwrongs.com reports at least 935 racehorse deaths in the United States for 2015 of which 30% were training deaths. At least 969 died in 2014, of which 27% were in training. In 2014, at least 199 racehorses died in racing and training in California. Moreover, most of these numbers of racehorse deaths are underestimates.

Here is what Patrick Battuello who maintains the web site Horseracingwrongs writes regarding the racehorse deaths reported on his site.

The following racehorses were killed on American tracks in 2015. Please note, however, that these are on-site deaths only – the “catastrophically injured” who were euthanized back at the farm or at a rescue facility are not reflected here. In addition, several states – California and Kentucky among them – rejected my FOIA request. While some horses from these states do appear below (confirmed through other channels), a likely majority remain hidden. Other states, still, omitted training deaths from their FOIA documents. So, this list – roughly 1,000 strong – could easily and reasonably be doubled, leaving us with close to 2,000 track-related kills last year.

Furthermore, what the industry refers to as “non-racing” fatalities – colic, laminitis, “found dead in stall” – have not been included. And, of course, this list says nothing of the thousands of recent “athletes” who were bled-out and butchered in foreign abattoirs. In short, what follows is far from a complete reckoning of Racing’s carnage.

Finally, while reading, please be mindful that the maiming and destruction is but a part of the story. There is, also: the pounding of unformed bodies; the extreme confinement of naturally free-roaming animals; the whipping; the (obviously) nonconsensual drugging and doping; and perhaps worst of all, the commodification – the buying and selling and trading and dumping. Collectively, the horseracing wrongs.

In addition, here is another article that focuses on racehorse deaths in California and Del Mar in particular. Among other statistics it points out that “More than 3,000 horses died during racing or training from 2009–2011, according to a New York Times survey of 29 racing states.” That is in just 29 states, not all 50! Also, in this period California was the leading state with 635 deaths!

So, whether in training or racing, horses will surely die (and be drugged and whipped) at Monterey Downs! Based on the data above, my current best estimate is 17 horses will die in training and racing in a 50-day season.

Business people horse racingNow is this issue of Monterey Downs and the associated racehorse brutality and deaths important for each one of us? Absolutely, and here’s why. Firstly, based on the data quoted above, it should be clear that if Monterey Downs is approved and built, there will be racehorse brutality and deaths there just as there have been through the years at Del Mar and other tracks throughout California and the United States. To even imagine otherwise is totally irrational!

Secondly, we have supervisorial elections coming up in June and city elections in November. If you want to cast a responsible vote in these elections, you must ascertain where your candidates stand with respect to approving the Monterey Downs project. This is particularly important for the Board of Supervisors, the Seaside City Council and mayor, and any other city elected official who could serve on LAFCO or the FORA board.  It should be clear that if you cast a vote for a candidate who supports Monterey Downs, you personally will be condoning horse racing brutality.

Now, if for any reason you are still uncertain regarding the issue of horse racing brutality, do your own online research. Also, remember that race horses are athletes. Whenever they are mistreated it is against their will. They should not be brutalized in training and competition any more than human athletes should be.

Bill Weigle is professor emeritus of mathematics and environmental studies at the University of Maine at Machias. He lives in Seaside. 

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Monterey Downs backers are trying to distort reality

People on Gigling

Plenty of people want the Monterey Downs site just the way it is

At the Monterey County League of Women Voters presentation on April 8, Beth Palmer, chief operating officer of Monterey Downs, stated that nobody wanted the land that Monterey Downs wants to develop, so Monterey Downs stepped up to fill that void. That’s nonsense unless “wanted” simply means “wanted to develop” such as Monterey Downs proposes.

In point of fact, 23 years ago, 11 local and national groups made the case for environmentally protecting the entire area south of Inter-Garrison Road, which includes the now-proposed Monterey Downs site. To be clear, these well-educated and insightful folks wanted the land protected from the type of development such as Brian Boudreau and Beth Palmer are proposing.  As evidence, please review the “Fort Ord Parklands – a Vision Statement” completed in January 1992. Note that among the many groups that prepared and endorsed this report were the Sierra Club and the Native Plant Society, along with nine other influential non-profit groups. Highlighted in yellow are many sections of the report that are relevant to the controversy at hand. Here is one particularly significant paragraph from the introductory remarks.
 
“Fringing the 8,000 acre Impact Zone is a Recreational Land greenbelt buffer area, where recreational activities and trails are proposed. The Impact Zone is designated Open Space Land, where wildlife habitat and natural ecological processes should be allowed to continue uninterrupted. The entire coastal zone and the remaining inland area south of Intergarrison Road is (sic) designated Parks/Wildlife Preserve Lands to protect the unique Maritime Chaparral, Oak Woodlands and Native Grassland areas and high concentrations of rare and uncommon plants and animals. Fort Ord harbors the last large habitat tracts of vegetation that were once typical of the Monterey Peninsula. These lands support many threatened endemic species that are naturally restricted to the central coast region and found nowhere else in the world.”
 
If one reads this scientific report, at least the sections highlighted in yellow, it becomes obvious that Keep Fort Ord Wild and other environmentally concerned groups are just attempting to preserve the same undeveloped wilderness that the 1992 Fort Ord Parklands Group said should be preserved over 23 years ago!
 
Here is the mission statement of Keep Fort Ord Wild:
 
“Keep Fort Ord Wild is a community coalition dedicated to the preservation of trails, recreation, wildlife and habitat on Fort Ord. We support sensible, economically viable, redevelopment of the extensive blight within the urban footprint of the former base. We support conservation of existing undeveloped open space for the enjoyment of current and future generations.”
 
So, clearly, the land in question is not unwanted land. In fact many of us have been fighting for nearly five years now to convince the leaders and populace that this land has been ‘wanted’ for its true intrinsic value as stated so well in the ‘Preservation Goals’ at the conclusion of the Parklands report, and quoted below.
 
“When Fort Ord closes, the primary economic base for the Monterey Peninsula will be tourism, a clean industry well established in this splendid region. Although the large number and variety of hotels and resorts available to visitors provides a great attraction, it is the outstanding natural beauty of the open space landscape that draws most people to the area. It is economically sound to provide recreational opportunities that enhance the visitor experience, fulfill the recreational needs of the local resident community, and maintain the ecological integrity of the natural landscape.”
 
Let’s keep Fort Ord wild!

Bill Weigle is professor emeritus of mathematics and environmental studies at the University of Maine at Machias. He lives in Seaside. His commentary first appeared in the Monterey Herald.

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