November 1, 2012
Racehorses being sold for meat: Vet
By Sheena Goodyear, QMI Agency
They used to be beloved racehorses, but now they're just lunch.
It's possible thousands of Ontario broodmares have been slaughtered for meat since the Liberal government announced the cancellation of a slot-machine program that generated millions in revenue for the horseracing industry, an equine veterinarian says.
Mark Biederman, who works just outside Windsor, Ont., said while he's not sure how many broodmares have been sold for meat, he estimates it could be hundreds, if not thousands.
He said many of his clients have sold theirs.
Broodmares are retired female racehorses used to breed the next generation. But with the horseracing industry in dire straits — facing hundreds of millions in losses — the old girls aren't worth much anymore.
"The broodmares are the first casualty of the industry," Biederman said. "There isn't any market for them other than going for meat."
Ontario's horseracing industry reels in $354 million a year from the soon-to-be-dead Slots at Racetracks Program, which divvies up profits from slot machines at tracks between the industry, the track owners and the government.
The province announced in the spring its plan to axe the program and divert the money to health care and education instead. Slot machines have already been removed from some racetracks in Ontario, and the revenue-sharing program will be fully shut down by March 31, 2013.
The move was met with opposition from people in the industry, and forced major tracks — like the Windsor Raceway — to shut down.
It also means many horse owners can no longer afford to keep the animals.
Biederman says business is down 50% at his veterinarian clinic. He's had to lay off staff and reduce hours. When the program officially ends in March 2013, he said he'll probably pack up and leave the province.
"If the slot program is ultimately cancelled I think that'll be the death of the industry. I don't think there will be any way to stay in Ontario. I think you're gonna have a mass exodus of horses."
So where will the business go? South of the border, Biederman expects.
Ohio is building a racing and slots venue just outside Cincinnati.
"So Ohio has been pushing for years to become more like Ontario and they're getting that way, and Ontario is going the other way," he said.
The Liberals have said it's a matter of priorities.
"At the end of the day, we need to ask ourselves whether the government should be in the business of health care and education or horseracing," a spokesman for Finance Minister Dwight Duncan told QMI Agency earlier this year.
— With files from Alex Consiglio