DawnWatch: Kentucky Derby celebratory coverage needs balancing letters — 5/5/07

May 8th, 2007 10:21 am by Kelly Garbato

———- Forwarded message ———-
From: DawnWatch – news [at] dawnwatch.com
Date: May 5, 2007 7:57 PM
Subject: DawnWatch: Kentucky Derby celebratory coverage needs balancing letters — 5/5/07

I write this as the Kentucky Derby blasts from the TV in my conference hotel room. As Street Sense comes up up from 19th place to take the race, it is hard not to get caught up in the excitement. But we remember Barbaro, who won the Derby last year, then went down in the Preakness. There are so many others we do not remember.

For the last few days, as the Derby has approached, we have seen, heard and read tributes to Barbaro. And sadly, those tributes have avoided discussing the truth about horse racing. On CNN Headline News this morning, Barbaro’s doctor said that the kind of treatment Barbaro got was not unusual in his practice. He thus gave the misleading impression that such treatment might be the norm for an injured horse. No doubt that veterinarian does do such treatments regularly, as he is surely one of the highest paid veterinarians in the industry who treats those horses who will be lucrative breeders if kept alive after an injury. But such treatment is hardly common. Days after Barbaro went down at last year’s Preakness, New York Times sportswriter William C Rhoden did a beautiful piece on the fate of the average horse injured during a race. (See http://tinyurl.com/2fpu5f for the summary of and link to that piece, headed, “An Unknown Filly Dies, and the Crowd Just Shrugs”.) An Associated Press article published last year told us that approximately 700 horses are put down in the United States and Canada every year after racing accidents. And a Newsweek article explained, “most horses with an injury like Barbaro’s would be destroyed, sometimes right at the track.” It discussed the fight to save his life and commented, “But the extraordinary measures taken on his behalf also served as a reminder that if Barbaro weren’t potentially worth millions of dollars, or if his owners weren’t wealthy themselves, the steps he took on the track at Pimlico very likely would have been his last.” (That article is still on line at: http://msnbc.msn.com/id/13008304/site/newsweek/)

Yesterday, Friday May 4, Wallace Matthews opened a New York Daily News piece headed, “133RD KENTUCKY DERBY; Barbaro still is a presence” (pg A 94) with:

“It turns out you can beat a dead horse, after all.

“The way they are flogging Barbaro at Churchill Downs this week, you’d think he was in the race instead of in an urn awaiting the final resting place for his ashes. The champion of last year’s Kentucky Derby has been dead since Jan. 29, but he is still the favorite of this year’s Derby.”

Matthews writes:

“Barbaro took one for the team, and the team is taking full advantage of it. There is a thin line between homage and exploitation, and right now, the racing industry is riding that line hard.

“There are Barbaro caps and Barbaro wristbands, Barbaro umbrellas and Barbaro posters, a Barbaro children’s book, and on Derby Day, an appearance by Barbaro’s owners, Roy and Gretchen Jackson, who will be available for autographs. Much of the proceeds from those items go to funds dedicated to saving horses from all manner of slaughter and other cruelties, but you have to come to the racetrack to make your donation.”

You’ll find the whole piece on line at http://tinyurl.com/2rc4gv and you can respond with a letter to the editor to letters [at] newsday.com.

While it points out the irony of grieving for Barbaro while continuing to support horse racing, the Newsday article does not really go into the dark side of the industry. Surrounding this year’s Derby, I am yet to see an article that does bring the truth to light. But we in the animal advocacy world can do just that — with letters to the editor. The Kentucky Derby will be in every newspaper this weekend and early next week. Please take this opportunity to write a quick note to your paper about the industry, and the cruelty that results when animals are used to make money in entertainment industries such as horse racing. A great source of information is the page “The Horseracing Industry: Drugs, Deception and Death” on line at http://www.peta.org/factsheet/files/FactsheetDisplay.asp?ID=65.

Include your full name, address and phone number with your letter. Don’t hesitate to ask me for help if you have any trouble finding the correct email address for your paper. And please know that I am happy to help edit letters.

Yours and the animals’,
Karen Dawn

(DawnWatch is an animal advocacy media watch that looks at animal issues in the media and facilitates one-click responses to the relevant media outlets. You can learn more about it, and sign up for alerts at http://www.DawnWatch.com. You may forward or reprint DawnWatch alerts if you do so unedited — leave DawnWatch in the title and include this parenthesized tag line. If somebody forwards DawnWatch alerts to you, which you enjoy, please help the list grow by signing up. It is free.)

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