THE BLOG

A Day at the Races - Isn't It Time We Put an End to Such Animal Abuse?

20/03/2014 15:21 GMT | Updated 20/05/2014 10:59 BST

"A horse in such pain that it hurt him even to stand, powerful prescription thyroid medication dumped into horses' daily feed, a seemingly endless cycle of pain injections to keep the horses running and horses who had been blistered with chemical paint as a way to stimulate healing and keep them racing"; this, according to PETA US is the true face of the lucrative business of horse racing.

For four emotionally challenging months, PETA's (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) undercover US investigators, have US been observing the highly popular sport.

During these months, they have captured video evidence of chronic misuse of legal drugs by leading American horse trainer Steve Asmussen among others. Drugs apparently used to enhance horses' performance and mask their injury.

As a letter from the group makes its way to the British Horseracing Authority (BHA), urging it to dissuade British entries in the 2014 Breeders' Cup, I ask why such conduct is allowed to continue.

According to PETA UK, judging from the findings of its US investigation, UK horse owners and trainers would face pressure to choose between "keeping their horses safe and drugging them with performance enhancers simply to level the playing field".

Asmussen, who has more race wins to his name than any other US trainer in the last decade, has had 10 separate complaints filed against him by PETA US and others working with him in Kentucky and New York. These complaints allege what PETA US sees as "multiple violations of state and federal law".

PETA US has also videotaped New York's top racing veterinarian admitting that Lasix is used as a performance enhancer. "Anyone who thought American racing was 'clean' can now see that even at this top level, the syringe is the main training tool and most of the horses who make it out alive are reduced to broken wrecks" says PETA. Applauding the BHA's work to raise awareness of equine welfare, PETA praises BHA's The Horse Comes First initiative and urges it to openly refuse "to participate in the drug-saturated culture of US racing" thus signalling that "horse health and safety truly is its primary concern".

A 2012 New York Times investigation has revealed that an average of 24 horses suffer fatal breakdowns at tracks across the US every week partly because of the misuse of drugs that keep injured horses running. Furthermore, 10,000 broken-down thoroughbreds are sent to slaughter every year.

As it highlights the reality of "UK horses are already handicapped in the Breeders' Cup by having to run on the unfamiliar and more dangerous dirt surfaces compared to UK racetracks" PETA is making its complaints as well as its correspondence with the BHA readily available upon request.