Michele Obama has become the latest target of PETA.
The video is a part of a push by PETA President Ingrid E. Newkirk to cut eggs from next Monday’s annual Easter egg roll, which Newkirk links to in a letter to the First Lady.On their website, PETA has videos that document the treatment of egg-laying hens. Now, we know full well that PETA crafts its videos to dramatize, proselytize, and propagandize to maximum effect. However, there's no question that the practices depicted do exist, and it's rough stuff, tough to watch. I'm not linking to it, you can find if you want. However, as gruesome as it may be, if you're like me, it's not going to stop you from eating eggs. Sure, the Head Chef buys only cage-free eggs, for whatever that may or may not be worth. But, to be perfectly honest, I don't demand documentation of such when I go into a restaurant, like in a Portlandia episode. And I would eat them in any event. What can I say? I'm not particularly proud, but like much of the world's population, I'm a carnivore. It's a benefit from being blessed enough to be a member of the species that's at the top of the food chain. Sure, sometimes when I'm eating meat, I do pause and think about it. And then I chew the fat off the bone. If you're Morrissey or Chrissie Hynde, or even just half as righteous on the topic as they, you have every right to judge me, and harshly.
“I hope that after hearing their message, you will implement a new, humane tradition at the White House by using synthetic eggs that don’t require any animal to suffer,” Newkirk says in the letter.
Newkirk even takes a jab at Mrs. Obama’s “Let’s Move” Initiative, saying “cruelly sourced, unhealthy eggs” are “primary contributors to some of our nation’s top killers, including heart disease and strokes.” [ABC News]
But more towards the topic of this blog......I watched that, and thought - wow. Now, THAT's animal abuse. In case one still needs the context, it makes the stuff on the Scott Blasi video (not sure why it's referred to otherwise, Asmussen himself merely makes a cameo) look even more like what it largely is; as the Daily Racing Form's Jay Hovdey most succinctly put it, a confirmation of "the fact that men will say stupid things to try to impress women when they think no one is listening." (And I'm still curious to know just exactly how she managed to inspire such intimate trust, and access. Where is the oppo research on this woman?) Even the innuendo in the video is hardly on the same scale of atrocity.
I think that if you consider, in this world in which we slaughter, eat, hunt - purely just for the sport of it - and otherwise disrespect animals as living beings, a global scale of animal abuse, on a scale of 1 to 10, the treatment of racehorses in this country might rank at about 1.7. If that much. Of course, we'd like it to be 1. Unfortunately, when there are peoples' livelihoods at stake, that is never going to happen. Still, my point here is that we in the horse racing industry are not such bad guys in the big picture. Even including the bad guys that there no doubt are. The problem, after years of getting hammered in the Times and now with the PETA video, is largely one of perception, the main point that Hovdey makes in his excellent above-mentioned column on Frank Stronach's new medication rules.
Those who believe perception is reality are duly alarmed. At the same time, those who believe perceptions can be incorrect and can be modified to more closely conform to reality have their work cut out, especially because it is becoming increasingly apparent that nothing of a unified nature will be done from inside the game about the darkening perceptions of horse racing, even in the face of racing’s more palatable realities.So yes, initiatives like Stronach's are an important step towards reversing that perception; and so is....I suppose....the idea of releasing veterinary records for the Derby horses. Personally, I have no interest in the latter, and to be perfectly frank, I myself don't lose sleep over the whole uniform medication rules and restrictions thing. Sure, I draw the line at any practice that constitutes abuse or increases the chance of fatalities. However, there will always be those who manage to bend the rules, if not outright skirt them, no matter what they eventually come to be. And, I dunno, when I was first getting into the game all those many years ago, trying to figure out who was getting away with what and when was part of the challenge and - dare I say it?? - the fun. As I've said, how much integrity can one really expect or demand when you are betting your hard-earned money on dumb animals? Jeez, we're all so serious now.
But seriously, it's something that needs to be done. It's an important element in fighting the prevailing perception. Also because then we would no longer have to read columns like this one by Bill Finley. I mean, I like Finley a lot, been reading him since he was covering the game for the Daily News. But really, how many times can one write, and read, the same appeals over and over again? In this particular column, the appeal was framed with respect to the silly suggestion that Asmussen should not come to the Derby.
I actually agree with Finley that he should come, but not for the same reason as he, and especially in a more perfect world in which racing would have the national spokesperson/PR machine that it desperately needs every bit as much as a national drug czar. In the wake of the video's release, there were people on Twitter who posted photos of horses receiving tender loving care, and they were actually criticized by some who said they were missing the point. But, with all due respect, it was they who were missing the point. This industry urgently needs to fight back with some proselytizing and propagandizing of its own.
Assuming that NBC will do their duty and note the presence of the trainer amidst the controversy, it would be an amazing opportunity for somebody representing the industry in the absence of an official spokesperson - perhaps NTRA President Alex Waldrop, from whose somewhat less than full-throated defense some of the below points are taken from - to give and to spin as good as he gets. Something like:
"Well of course we are concerned about any allegations of abuse such as the ones you mention. But let me be clear: We are proud of the fact that the overwhelming majority of our horsemen treat their animals with the utmost of care and compassion. In fact, many owners go the extra mile to ensure, at their own expense, that their horses have a loving home after their racing days are over.
In the area of medication that has generated so much news, we have made great strides in the last few years. Regulators in states that account for 80% of total betting handle are moving towards the adoption of uniform rules, reforms, and penalties. In New York, which accounts for 20% of handle all by itself, adoption of just some of these reforms have already led to a 40% reduction in equine fatalities.
I would also like to point out however that, even in advance of these new reforms, out-of-competition testing of horses racing in states including New York, California, and Kentucky has failed to yield a single positive test for illegal substances from approximately 10,000 samples. This proves definitively and beyond a doubt that the vast majority of our trainers and owners do indeed play within the rules.
And gentlemen, take a look around on this glorious day here at Churchill Downs. [String music swelling.] What a wonderful crowd we have on hand; over 140,000 here, and millions across the land, taking part in one of our great national traditions; the most exciting two minutes in sports. Horse racing is a part of our national heritage; an integral part of our American culture! Be assured that we are working to ensure and maintain a horse racing industry that is safe, humane and prosperous, and which will continue to employ hundreds of thousands of people and generate millions in revenue for state and local economies!
Or something like that.