I couldn't help but think of this classic National Lampoon magazine cover when I read a CTV report that Ontario's Horse Racing Industry Transition Panel is warning that "7,500 to 13,000 could be euthanized by early 2013 as a result of downsizing in the horse racing and breeding industry."
What's going on here? The Ontario government wants to scrap a 1996 deal by which the horse racing industry was able to share in the revenues from slot machines at racetracks. The program, called SARP, is worth $345 million a year to the racing venues. Without it, they owners say the industry will collapse. And without tracks, according to the government panel, there will be nothing to do but kill all those horses.
Glenn Sikura, president of the Canadian Thoroughbred Horse Society, apparently agrees. “The horse industry’s done a very good job of placing horses with other ways of competing … but there’s just not enough homes,” he said (I'm sure while making a sad face).
Lesson learned by the racing industry: Never look a PR gift horse in the mouth.
Much of this seems fishy to me. Apparently, we've been subsidizing a venerable gambling industry that is not economically self-sufficient with the profits from one of the most addictive modern gambling vices — slot machines. But now that Ontario is in economic trouble, they're clawing back money from wherever they can. (The Panel called the slots program "poor public policy" anyway.)
Then there's the question of these horses we've been subsidizing, for what some claim is a cruel industry. If not racing, they apparently have no other use than to provide horse meat to anyone willing to eat it. Which, if you think about it, is no worse fate than that of our multitude of delicious cows, pigs, lambs and chickens.
But horses are treated differently here. They have "pet" status. So the troubled Ontario Premier actually has to respond to this emotional blackmail.
“We’re concerned about some of the stories we’ve heard about mass euthanasia of horses. That is not something we intend to support, obviously,” Dalton McGuinty is quoted as saying. “We’re listening very intently. But at the end of the day, we’ve also made a decision: We’ve got to put schools and healthcare ahead of subsidizing horse racing in Ontario.”
Schools? Healthcare? But... but... but... HORSIES!