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Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Killing Fields?

According to a report from QMI Agency in Ontario, there is talk of foals being euthanized immediately after birth.  The reason for this decision?  If a horse lives more than an hour, the stud fees are owed to the stallion's owner and there is a real fear that breeders will take a bloodbath in the current Ontario environment if they have to pay the stud fees and the upkeep of the horses until the yearling sales, only to get pennies on the dollar when it comes to selling prices.

I am sure it is happening, but hopefully not to the level the horse industry wants Ontarians to think.  I am sure the story was released to shock Ontarians to put pressure on the government to 'stabilize' the racing industry.  I am sure if there is any mass euthanisia taking place, it is being done on foals from non-descript bloodlines.  Personally, I find this abhorrent, but it is easy for me to sit here and say breeders need to lose their shirts by bringing these foals to market as yearlings.  If there is any solace, it is better they be euthanized than end up in the slaughterhouse.  Unfortunately, I suspect some broodmares and stallions may not be as fortunate.

Personally, I think any breeders that are doing this are overreacting.  There will be racing next year, albeit fewer days.  Purses look to be much smaller, but even Woodbine, before the Slots at Tracks program was having purses of $7,000 for maidens.  Now realizing wagering is down, maidens may go for $5,000.  Of course, there will be fewer racing opportunities available in the province as some tracks go out of business.  Also, breeders should realize their horses can go into the United States and race as there is a horse shortage on the East Coast.  They would get racing opportunities, of course without the benefit of a sires stakes program.  No doubt, what they would receive for their yearlings will be significantly lower, but to worry about $600 yearling prices as a rule is a bit extreme.

However, if foal euthanasia is taking place, it lies on the hands of the Liberals in the Ontario provincial Parliament.  If the government is determined to end the Slots at Tracks program next year, it is their perogative to do so.  But blood is on the government's hands because they should have had a transitional program to announce at the same time they announced the end of the Slots at Tracks program conceptually, if not details. 

When Quebec suddenly closed the slots tap in their province suddenly forcing the track operator into bankruptcy and liquidation, at least they announced a program where they were going to subsidize Quebec breeders for the end of racing; giving them so much per foals in decreasing amounts over a few years in order for the breeders to orderly transition out of horse breeding.  This way, Quebec breeders would be able to sell their horses in other provinces or in the United States for decreased prices without losing their shirt.  If Ontario is insisting on ending their slots program, they should have a program similar to Quebec's.  Raising horses is not like growing corn.  It takes several years before an off-spring of a horse is ready for sale.  For this, the government is to be held at fault.  They had no clue on how breeding works or they just had a blatant disregard for the industry.


Harry Lare said...

Only ones at fault are the lowlifes euthanizing these foals. What a disgrace.
I wonder why I even follow this sport? The more this type of crap comes out, the more it pushes me away.

Anonymous said...

At least you have your head out of the sand bar and realize that there was no thought put into this by our government when to comes to the people they will put out of work and possibly have to support or subsidize in some other way -- It is not just about the horses it is about an entire industry and a way of life, If people only understood just how large the horse indusrty is and how much damage this will do.

Pacingguy said...

Anon, I have always thought the plan was put out badly; I suspect to keep racing from launching a preemptive strike against the proposal. Fine; at least if you are going to cut the cord, at least come out and say 'this is what we are going to do as a result'.

If you have read this blog since its inception, you know I have been torn over the whole slots program throughout North America, wherever it has been put in place.

I realize slot 'rent' or 'subsidies' (depending on how it has been structured), has allowed the industry to revive itself on the supply side of the equation. However, I also know the industry has squandered the opportunity to do anything to improve the industry for the gamblers (the demand side).

When slots at tracks first came out, it was supposed to be temporary support as racing got its house under control. Organizations have paid for reports and seemingly done nothing after paying for them. Horsemen have been asked to put some moneey into a marketing account by Standardbred Canada only to be rebuff their own trade organization. Horsemen seemed unconcerned they were racing in front of empty stands and with hardly any handle, yet they refuse to race shorter meets to reduce competition between the tracks. In effect, racing forgot the wagering mattered.

I understand many tracks don't want to do anything either, but this is what you get when you make a deal with the devil.

Yes, people are going to be hurt badly (though I think horsemen are over-reacting), but there comes a time where you have to decide is this industry capable of saving itself and sadly, the answer seems to be no. Hence, I can see why governments want to cut off the payments; why throw good money after bad? Sooner or later, you have to say 'enough'.

That being said, there is a responsible way to end support. You don't cut cold turkey; you allow the industry to transition to self-sufficency (or extinction). You provide aid for farmers to allow them the opportunity to change from equine to grain or other livestock production in an orderly fashion.

The sad truth is racing had a golden opportunity yet seemingly squandered a good thing.

That being said, I love the sport and I will be here as long as it exists.