Emergence of a video tape released by the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals purporting to show animal abuse in the barn of a prominent American racehorse trainer provoked much consternation within the racing industry. The danger now is that the outrage and concern will dissipate without substantive reforms being instituted, particularly on medication, because animal-rights organizations are increasingly exerting political muscle via candidates they helped put into office.

A recent article in the Wall Street Journal described the growing efforts in cities like Atlanta, Chicago, Cincinnati, New York, and Philadelphia to ban horse-drawn carriages on the grounds of cruelty. The Journal wrote: “the movement to outlaw the carriages has been spurred by highly publicized deaths and injuries to horses, along with a push from animal rights groups such as PETA.”

These groups supported the successful campaign of New York City’s first-year mayor, Bill de Blasio. As a quid pro quo, de Blasio pledged to replace horse-drawn carriages with electric cars; he is working to keep that promise despite a reputable poll showing that two-thirds of his constituency wants carriages on the streets.

It is prudent to extrapolate that animal-rights-backed officials could be persuaded to seek the elimination of horse racing at urban racetracks like Aqueduct Racetrack and Hawthorne Race Course.

To defend itself as a worthy sporting endeavor and commercial enterprise, racing needs to quickly get its internal house in order regarding medication, whip use, and other negatives that hang over it like the Sword of Damocles. The industry badly needs a unified strategic thrust to protect and advance its interests.

While unification has been an elusive concept in American horse racing, the counsel Dr. Benjamin Franklin gave to his co-conspirators at the outset of the American Revolution is cautionary and apropos: “We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately.”

Copyright 2014 Blood-Horse Publications. Used with permission.