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British Horse Racing Warned Off Breeders' Cup After Rampant Misuse Of Drugs Exposed In Video Sting

For Immediate Release:

20 March 2014

Contact:

Ben Williamson 020 7837 6327, ext 229; BenW@peta.org.uk

Drug-Free UK Horses at Significant Disadvantage, Says PETA US After Formal Complaints Filed With Authorities Against Trainer Steve Asmussen, Others

London – Following a four-month undercover investigation by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) US, which captured video evidence of chronic misuse of legal drugs by leading American horse trainer Steve Asmussen, among others, apparently to enhance horses' performance and mask their injuries, the group fired off a letter to the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) urging it to dissuade British entries in the 2014 Breeders' Cup.

The US affiliate of PETA UK says that British horses would be placed at a significant disadvantage judging from the findings of its investigation if they do not "drug up" and that UK horse owners and trainers would face pressure to choose between keeping their horses safe and drugging them with performance enhancers simply to level the playing field. 

Asmussen, who has won more races in the last decade than any other US trainer, was investigated and recorded by PETA US from April to August 2013 at Churchill Downs racetrack in Louisville, Kentucky, and Saratoga Race Course in New York. PETA US has filed 10 separate complaints against him and others working with him in Kentucky and New York alleging what it sees as multiple violations of state and federal law.

"PETA US observed a horse in such pain that it hurt him even to stand, powerful prescription thyroid medication dumped into horses' daily feed, a seemingly endless cycle of pain injections to keep the horses running and horses who had been blistered with chemical paint as a way to stimulate healing and keep them racing", says PETA US President and PETA UK Managing Director Ingrid E Newkirk. "And PETA US videotaped New York's top racing veterinarian as he admitted that Lasix is used as a performance enhancer. Anyone who thought American racing was 'clean' can now see that even at this top level, the syringe is the main training tool and most of the horses who make it out alive are reduced to broken wrecks."

She continues, "We applaud the fact that the BHA is working to raise awareness of equine welfare by promoting The Horse Comes First initiative. By refusing to participate in the drug-saturated culture of US racing, it would signal that horse health and safety truly is its primary concern".

An average of 24 horses suffer fatal breakdowns at tracks across the US every week partly because of the misuse of drugs that keep injured horses running, according to a 2012 New York Times investigation, and 10,000 broken-down thoroughbreds are sent to slaughter every year. UK horses are already handicapped in the Breeders' Cup by having to run on the unfamiliar and more dangerous dirt surfaces compared to UK racetracks.

PETA US' complaints as well as its correspondence with the BHA are available upon request. For more information on the use of animals in entertainment, please visit PETA.org.uk.

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