Stop betting on the lives of animals

By John Di Leonardo 

In March, I wrote a column urging readers to pledge never to bet on the lives of animals and to write to New York State Governor Kathy Hochul opposing her plan to finance half a billion dollars in taxpayer-funded corporate welfare to the failing Belmont Park race track. Despite horse racing violating the Jain tenet of Ahimsa and gambling being one of the 7 addictions or Sapta Vyasan, recognized and prohibited by Jainism, this financing was approved. Now, tragedy has struck again.   

Despite smog from Canadian wildfires closing schools and canceling events throughout New York and nearly one hundred activists protesting outside the race track on Saturday, Belmont Park officials moved forward with the Belmont Stakes, the final leg of Thoroughbred racing’s “Triple Crown.” Less than 24 hours later, two horses were dead. Mashnee Girl and Excursionniste, both trained by renowned horse trainer Mark Hennig, broke their legs and were killed on the track.  

While many are calling for an investigation of Hennig and Hennig calling for an inspection of the track, horse deaths are business as usual at Belmont Park with more than 600 horses being killed at Belmont since 2009, including 41 last year and 18 so far in 2023.  

The facts are simple: Horse racing kills horses. While jockeys choose to race and bettors choose to risk their money, horses are whipped and forced to run for their lives before their bones are even fully developed, leading to catastrophic breakdowns and bone fractures like those suffered by Excursionniste and Mashnee Girl this weekend. While human athletes get to go home at the end of the day and retire when they wish, horses are confined to tiny stalls 23 hours a day when they’re not racing and are brutally butchered at the end of their “careers”.  
For this week’s Anuvrat, I urge readers to use their voice to speak up about the deaths of Excursionniste and Mashnee Girl and to urge anyone they know who attended, watched, or bet on the Belmont Stakes, to stop betting on the lives of animals. When one bets at the races, the only sure bet is that someone is going to die.  
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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].   

Images courtesy of Alysyn Bryan and Provided

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