Please pledge never to bet on the lives of animals

By John Di Leonardo

Gambling is one of the 7 addictions, or Sapta Vyasan, recognized and prohibited by Jainism. This vice has devastated the lives of many persons and their families, however, when it comes to horse racing, it devastates the lives of animals as well. Surely, a great deal of Jains as well as kind people regardless of religious affiliation oppose this cruel practice, so why has New York State Governor Kathy Hochul proposed financing half a billion dollars in taxpayer-funded corporate welfare to renovate the Belmont racetrack?   

Forced to train and race before their bones are fully developed, or even with pre-existing injuries masked by performance-enhancing drugs, more than 1,600 horses have been killed at racetracks in New York State since 2009, including more than 1,000 at tracks owned by the New York Racing Association (NYRA). When they’re not being forced to run to their deaths, horses – who are naturally herd animals – may be confined to solitary 12×12 stalls for over 23 hours a day. At “career’s” end, most spent or simply unwanted racehorses – approximately 10,000-15,000 annually – are brutally bled and butchered.    

As my colleague Patrick Battuello at Horseracing Wrongs reveals:   

In the most recent five-year period, 2018-2022, the combined death toll at Aqueduct and Belmont – which is precisely what the New Belmont would comprise – is 274, a figure that would rank first in the nation in horses killed. That is what Governor Hochul is proposing to build – the deadliest racetrack in America.   

Viewed another way, if NYRA gets this money and builds this track, using the historical average of 61 dead annually at Aqueduct/Belmont, we can reasonably expect another 1,200 or so horses to perish at the New Belmont Park over the term of the loan. That’s another 1,200 beautiful, intelligent, sensitive creatures who will be killed, for nothing more than $2 bets, and by an industry that is being propped up by taxpayers.     

Thankfully, kind people no longer want to support horse racing. Over just the last four decades, Belmont’s attendance has fallen 88% and Aqueduct’s has dropped an astounding 94%. New York State’s revenues from NYRA’s gambling taxes have gone down almost 80%. Renovating the track won’t bring people back. The lottery has expanded, casinos have been erected, and mobile sports betting – betting on real sports played by human beings who go home at the end of the day and retire when they wish – is in demand. 41 tracks have closed around the country in recent years, begging the question: Will racing even exist before NYRA pays off its debt?  

For this week’s Anuvrat, please pledge never to bet on the lives of animals. Then urge the New York State Legislature to stop subsidizing an industry that kills horses via   


John Di Leonardo is the founding director of Humane Long Island. He was previously the Senior Manager of Grassroots Campaigns and Animals in Entertainment Campaigns for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). He has a Master’s degree in Anthrozoology from Canisius College. He also earned a graduate certificate in Jain Studies from the International School of Jain Studies (ISJS) in India. John can be reached at [email protected].

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