Suffolk Downs Ended “Zero Tolerance” Policy on Horse Slaughter A Year Ago, But Still Takes Credit

(Bumped.  Williams is the same idiot who sees no difference between Obama, Stalin, and Pol Pot (hey Mark, here's a clue: only one of those three did not slaughter millions of his own people).  Come on, local Republicans, do yourselves proud and denounce this fool. - promoted by David)

Since being purchased by casino developer Richard Fields in 2007, Suffolk Downs has led the charge for casinos in Massachusetts.  They have put together a formidable team of connected insiders and have brought the Commonwealth closer to welcoming casinos then at anytime in our history.  

Along the way, Suffolk Downs has managed to garner itself much positive publicity.   In summer 2008, Suffolk Downs got much deserved praise with the announcement of a strict “zero-tolerance” policy for horse owners/trainers who engage in the pernicious practice of having old racehorses sold for food or industrial purposes (like glue) once they are no longer spry enough for racing at the track.  If horse from Suffolk Downs was slaughtered or caught being auctioned for slaughter, the people who were responsible for that horse would have their right to operate at Suffolk Downs permanently revoked.  The extensive press section of Suffolk Downs website proudly touts much of the good publicity this admirable policy generated.

In November 2008, Suffolk Downs even followed through on this policy by announcing that they were coming down hard and banning one horse owner and four licensed trainers when their horses were found by anti-slaughter activists in the “kill pen” of a horse auction, just days after the horse a left Suffolk Downs supposedly bound to work giving rides to kids at a carnival in Florida.  Naturally, the good publicity generated by this sanction is touted on the Suffolk Downs website.

Unfortunately for aging racehorses and the integrity of Suffolk Downs ownership, in April 2009 the “zero-tolerance” policy was proved to be a sham and three of the trainers were reinstated.  No mention of this development appears on Suffolk Downs website however, guess there was no room.


  One has to look at the racing calendar of Suffolk Downs to truly appreciate the trickery of what Suffolk Downs repeatedly called a “zero tolerance” policy on horse slaughter.  Racing at Suffolk Downs goes from May to November, the trainers caught dumping their washed up horses to the slaughterers were busted in November and reinstated in April.  This means that zero percent of a “zero tolerance” punishment was applied when there was actually racing at Suffolk Downs.  Ouch, I bet baseball players busted for steroids wish that MLB had a “zero tolerance” policy like this, so they could serve their suspension in the off-season and not have to be bothered by missing any games.  The reality of their tolerance for horse slaughter has not stopped Suffolk Downs from continuing to take credit for the fake “zero tolerance” they touted far and wide in 2008, there are many examples but two are this article from October 2009 and this article from just last month.

I feel genuinely bad for the people who work at Suffolk Downs and are in danger of losing their jobs if Suffolk Downs closes down.  But, there are literally thousands of people in hundreds of businesses in this state who are in the same situation.  If we are going to use slot machines to save jobs there needs to be a fair and open process to decide which ones (my vote is for fishermen), there is no good reason Suffolk Downs should just be handed the golden ticket by fiat of the Speaker and there may be very good reasons that the golden ticket should not go to the people running Suffolk Downs.  If they can’t be honest about their policies on something as universally loathed as horse slaughtering, perhaps they shouldn’t be trusted to run slots.  I know, I know, people will say that the racing commission already licenses Suffolk Downs so there’s no need for silly formalities.  The truth is that Suffolk Downs has not been vetted in the least and the Massachusetts State Racing Commission is a bit of a joke, but maybe that’s a story for another post.

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9 Comments . Leave a comment below.
  1. you're absolutely right,

    there has never been any reason to ever trust this industry, and Suffolk Downs is no different. Also remember that Wonderland didn't pay their property taxes for two entire years, while Revere was facing who knows how many layoffs, and got away with it.

  2. Maybe I'm just thinking too much like an engineer...

    Along the way, Suffolk Downs has managed to garner itself much positive publicity.   In summer 2008, Suffolk Downs got much deserved praise with the announcement of a strict "zero-tolerance" policy for horse owners/trainers who engage in the pernicious practice of having old racehorses sold for food or industrial purposes (like glue) once they are no longer spry enough for racing at the track.  If horse from Suffolk Downs was slaughtered or caught being auctioned for slaughter, the people who were responsible for that horse would have their right to operate at Suffolk Downs permanently revoked.  The extensive press section of Suffolk Downs website proudly touts much of the good publicity this admirable policy generated.

    Why is this admirable policy?  I mean, we slaughter other animals and eat them, or feed them to our dogs and cats via pet food.  Why not horses too?  Is it that they're cuter than pigs?  We're not a nation of vegetarians, a nation who doesn't own pets, or even a nation who doesn't have the need to stick two things together.  So why not slaughter in a manner at least as humane as the way we slaughter cattle, hogs, broilers, or any other farm/work animals?

    • $quot;Maybe I'm just thinking too much like an engineer$quot;

      Yup.

    • I understand what you're saying...

      ...but a big part of the presentation of horse racing is that these are majestic animals whose skill and power is worthy of viewing and admiration, it seems somehow particularly cruel and hypocritical to showcase them in this way and then turn around and sell them for food or glue once they can't run as fast as they used to.  I'll concede however that I myself do enjoy more than my share of cow steaks, and though I probably wouldn't want a horse steak I can't say there is an ethical difference between the two...cultural norms, I guess.

      My point is not that horse slaughtering (which I do find gross) needs to be banned, it's that Suffolk Downs got a ton of good pr by claiming they were going to have "zero tolerance" of horse slaughtering and still to this day generate good publicity for themselves on this false claim, but in reality lied about having a "zero tolerance" policy and are actually pretty tolerant of the practice.  If Suffolk Downs can't even keep their promises about a simple & widely reviled thing like horse slaughter (granting this revulsion is perhaps arbitrarily applied within the animal kingdom), they certainly should not be given the benefit of the doubt on the far more complex promises being made around slots.    

      • Oh, I get that there *is* good will and differing cultural norms.

        I understand the optics of their decision and the P.R. that they get out of their decision.

        I just don't really understand why this particular cultural norm exists.  I understand a Buddhist philosophy that all animals have value and feel pain, and there should be treated well.  I understand a view espoused by most involved in agriculture, which is that animals are valuable and as a financial instrument should be treated well, and certainly shouldn't bear the brunt of unnecessary nor excessive pain nor stress.  What I don't understand is the arbitrary rules based around different animals, or even different four legged mammals.  Why is "some pig" necessary to save the life of the pig, but "some horse" would be redundant?

        • tough to say

          I'd guess is has something to do with our cultural penchant for romanticizing frontier history, or maybe Frederic Remington is to blame.  It's an interesting question, but I don't want to get too side-tracked away from the main point.

          Would you agree that if Suffolk Downs can't even play it straight on such an easy win (in our culture) as is zero tolerance for horse slaughter, they should not be granted a special privileges (with no bidding, vetting, or competition) based on promises regarding slots, gambling and jobs which will provide far greater opportunity and motivation for shenanigans?    

          • No I wouldn't.

            I would state that they should not be granted any gambling facilities at all, nor should any other establishment in MA.

            If gambling comes, then no vendor should be granted any special privileges -- everything should be competitive, vetted, etc.

  3. this thread reminded me

    of something I posted last year.

    Although the focus has not been on horse racing, Triple Crown of Cruelty provides a different perspective.

    Racing, whether horse or greyhound is fading in popularity and tracks around the country are closing. "Saving Racing" is merely a cheap excuse for a slot parlor.  

  4. Addendum

    I meant to include in the original story a notation that even Suffolk Downs Wikipedia page still contains the false information about their phony zero-tolerance policy:  "In 2008, Suffolk Downs became the first race track in the country to implement a zero-tolerance policy toward those who slaughter horses. The policy states that if a horse from Suffolk Downs is sold for slaughter, the trainer and owner of that horse will be barred from the grounds for life."  Curiously, the Wikipedia user who edited this nice little piece of Suffolk Downs public relations has only edited two other pages besides Suffolk Downs, and one of them is the page for Speakers of the Massachusetts House of Representatives.  

    Richard Fields (casino magnate owner of Suffolk Downs) presents himself as "a lover of horses", perhaps he doesn't know that the track he owns tolerates the slaughter of the horses he loves for food and/or industrial purposes?

    My opinion is that since Suffolk Downs original claim to have a zero tolerance policy was so newsworthy (see their website or just google "Suffolk Downs" AND "horse slaughter" to get an idea of just how far and wide this false info has been spread), then Suffolk Downs going back on their pledge and allowing this ugly practice for people at their track should also be newsworthy.  I tried to contact Suffolk Downs through the form on their website to inquire why they didn't comply with their own announce "zero tolerance" policy, and when they going are to set the record straight and announce the the policy had been rescinded, though no response yet.  Surely, Suffolk Downs is honorable and would never want to let false information exist and be repeated for so long?  It's probably just an oversight that a correction hasn't been made already.  Suffolk Downs actually has fairly active twitter page and facebook page, I would encourage any folks active on those social media to prod Suffolk Downs to correct the record about their tolerance for horse slaughter, and maybe even explain to the public why they changed their mind about the seemingly wise policy of "zero tolerance" of the slaughter of their star workers.

    Let's try to get an answer for this.  It's the least Suffolk Downs can go in exchange for what is essential a license to print money.  

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