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.
Now 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.