THREE YEARS AGO, in the ninety-third renewal of the Queen’s Plate, Canada’s oldest, richest and most talked-about horse race, the favorite with most bettors was a horse named Acadian, owned by E. P. Taylor, a wealthy financier and sportsman. In the betting machines at Toronto’s Woodbine Park forty-seven thousand dollars was wagered on Acadian and another Taylor horse, Dress Circle. This made the Taylor entry about twice as popular as any other horse or team of horses in the race.
It couldn’t have been a worse day. Rain had poured since morning and the track was deep in water and mud. There were twenty-one horses so the racing officials had to use two starting gates to get them all in. The horses were parading toward the start when one of these gates got stuck in the mud. Then, to make matters worse, the electrical mechanism that makes the gate open failed to work. For half an hour the horses walked around in the rain, jockeys glued wetly to their backs, while repairmen tried to fix the gate.
They couldn’t make it work, so it was decided to start the horses anyway—from the open stalls of the gales. One by one, they were trotted into the stalls. When the favorite Acadian pranced in, something even worse happened—he reared, slipped in the mud, caught his leg in the gate and in an instant he was pinned under the gate, wallowing in the mud.
For the next twenty minutes the whole drama of the Queen’s Plate for twenty-five thousand spectators revolved around Acadian. Assistant starters pushed and tugged to free him. At last, when he lurched to his feet, he was a pitiful sight. He was bathed in mud, he had lost his bridle and his legs were skinned where he had kicked them on the gate trying to get up or where he had been kicked by other horses. Acadian was on the track, where his owner Taylor had no power to intervene; only the stewards appointed by the Ontario Racing Commission could step in.
It should be possible at this point to say that the race was over for Acadian, that he was led away and given the attention that ordinary human kindness—and the Racing Commission rules and the Criminal Code of Canada—insists that you must give an animal in distress. And that the people who wagered forty-seven thousand dollars thinking they were going to get an honest run for their money had a chance to make another bet or get their money back. But that didn’t happen.
Instead, Acadian was fitted with another bridle, pushed once more into the starting gate and made to run a mile and an eighth on his hurt legs with a hundred and twenty-six pounds on his back. And the people who bet on him had to find what solace they could in the statement of his jockey, Ronnie Nash, after Acadian had finished ninth: “The horse was injured. He should not have been allowed to run.”
But this was one case in a million, you say. In the rain and the horse handlers’ haste to get a bad job over with, common sense went by the board and everybody overlooked the condition of the horse and the plight of the people who had bet on him. You say that Canadian racetracks don’t make a careless habit of running unfit or lame horses— and ignoring the bettors who support them. I say it happens much more frequently than you may think. Furthermore, I say that everybody connected with horse racing knows it including the horsemen who last year collected four million dollars from the labors of race horses in Canada, the provincial governments which took more than six millions in taxes, many of the eminent men who are directors of the jockey clubs, and the humane societies which find it easier to look the other way when so much money and prestige are involved.
This sounds incredible, but it is true. Last April the president of the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Mrs. Noel Eaton, of Aldershot, Ont., asked at the Ontario Veterinary College at Guelph for an opinion on the “icing” of horses. This is a common treatment that gets around the racing rule forbidding the use of drugs or medicine on a horse within forty-eight hours of a race. An aching limb or joint is immersed in ice water or packed in ice. This helps to reduce inflammation and also numbs the injured limb.
Dr. F. W. Schofield, head of the department of pathology at the veterinary college, told Mrs. Eaton bluntly: “The evil is not in icing but in forcing a lame horse to run. Most cases of lameness are associated with more or less pain; this the owner knows, but in spite of this he deliberately increases the pain by exercise. It is both cowardly and cruel and cannot possibly be termed a sport except in the sense which bullfighting, cock fighting and gladiatorial contests are regarded as sports by ignorant or sadistic people.”
Yet icing remains a recognized part of horse racing. At any Canadian track you can see ice wagons making deliveries to the barns every morning. People who ask about, the treatment are told it relieves pain which it does but they’re not told that the real purpose is to help a lame horse to run.
I have worked with horses for fifty years— in Scotland, where my father bred and raced thoroughbreds; in England, where I began training to be a veterinary, and in Canada, where for the past thirty years I have been a veterinarian specializing in horses. I have looked after horses for the Canadian Army, inspected them for UNRRA, lectured and done research on them at the Ontario Veterinary College, examined them for fitness at the Royal Winter Fair, rendered judgments on their ailments for Canadian and U. S. insurance companies and presided at the birth, illnesses and death of countless horses for important Canadian breeding farms.
Also, for twelve months in 1951 and 1952, I watched horses performing on the race track, as chief veterinary surgeon for the Ontario Racing Commission, a government-appointed group that regulates racing in Ontario. Later I was in charge of saliva tests (to guard against doping) at harness racing in Toronto. Admittedly, I watched these horses closer than the average person would because I was looking for any and all signs of injury or pain.
What I saw was unbelievable. You can be sent to jail for one year or fined five hundred dollars (section 542 of the Criminal Code of Canada) for “heating, ill-treating, abusing, overdriving any domestic animal,” including a horse, anywhere in Canada—except apparently on a racetrack. I not only saw horses beaten but I saw one harness-horse driver who had a two-inch spike attached to his whip handle to jab his horse and make it run faster.
During the spring, summer and autumn of 1951 I reported to the ORC one hundred and forty-four cases of lame horses entered for racing on Ontario tracks. In almost exactly half those cases the presiding stewards who got my reports decided it was all right to let the horses run, even though they knew a lame horse has little chance of winning unless he’s doctored in some way to temporarily stop his pain. The betting public is never told by racetracks about the condition of a horse.
“I Watched a Blind Horse Race”
In one case of a horse named Ted Wes I told the stewards on fifteen separate occasions that he was lame and in no shape to run. Each time the stewards passed him as fit. In those fifteen races Ted Wes, by means of pre-race exercise, was actually able to win two races. (Such exercise warms up a horse’s aching legs and reduces pain; after a race the horse is lamer and in more pain than ever.) Most of the time Ted Wes ran, however, neither he nor the people who bet on him had a chance to win the race or money in the mutuels.
You wouldn’t dare hitch a blind horse to a wagon and drive him around the city streets. The Humane Society or SPCA would have you in court if the police didn’t already have you in jail. But apparently you can hitch the same blind horse to a harness-racing sulky and drive him all afternoon around a racetrack—at untold peril to other drivers and horses and the spectators looking on. I saw it happen at Dufferin Park in Toronto. As far as I know, I was the only one who complained.
For the Canadian public which pours more than eighty million dollars a year into the pari-mutuel machines the racetrack operators insist there’s nothing too good.
Thirty members of the RCMP work all year round making sure the money paid to winning bettors is correct to the closest, nickel or dime. So-called “security policemen” are employed by every track to ensure that nobody picks a patron’s pocket or tries to talk him into a bad bet. The tracks have saliva tests to guard against doping of horses. Jockeys and horsemen are watched constantly to make sure they don’t try to “fix” races. The sport is policed so well it’s almost impossible to defraud the public-except by racing a crippled horse, and that’s done almost every day.
You find this hard to believe? Then read this advertisement from the February 1953 issue of Horses, a small periodical distributed by the Cromwell Bloodstock Agency in Lexington, Ky.: “I am interested in a classy cripple that can be patched up and raced short; something on the order of Sir Bim. I have had a lot of experience with bad-legged horses and I think I might be able to race a classy old stud until he pays himself out, and then breed him to short mares ... If you know anything please send me the particulars, price, etc.”
There are a lot of horsemen with a lot of experience with bad-legged horses, and many of them operate in Canada, not Kentucky. Last Oct. 26 veteran racing writer Joe Perlove reported in the Toronto Star: “Yesterday (at Long Branch, near Toronto) two horses, Bbl O Monkeys, second choice to the winner Kelina in the seventh, broke down while on the lead at the turn out of the backstretch, and Nosun. second choice in the eighth, broke down while trying to make a belated move and had to be vanned off the track. The commission has a horde of vets scanning the day’s entrants every morning. Yet Bbl O Monkeys and Nosun were okayed and the customers blew their money.”
The customers also blew their money last June 23 at Woodbine in Toronto when a horse named Scientist ran last in the seventh race. After the race the stewards appointed by the Racing Commission called for an examination of the horse and subsequently fined trainer Gordon M. Huntley fifty dollars for starting an unfit horse.
But that still didn’t answer the question that the people who bet on Scientist were entitled to ask; the question the Toronto Humane Society should have asked both the Ontario Racing Commission and the Ontario Jockey Club which operates Woodbine; the question that sports editor Bobby Hewitson asked next day in the Toronto Telegram: “If the veterinary report indicated the horse was not fit, why was the start allowed? If not allowed the fans would have been protected from losing their money, for the horse was bet on at less than 4 to 1.”
There is no need for any racetrack to permit the running of crippled horses, except to accommodate a small number of horsemen who are more zealous in racing their horses than kind in the way they treat them. The practice can be stopped quite easily. In the spring of 1952 Premier Leslie Frost tabled in the Ontario legislature a report I made to S. Tupper Bigelow, chairman of the Racing Commission. The report covered 151 days of racing in 1951 at Hamilton, Fort Erie and Toronto racetracks under the jurisdiction of the ORC. That was the season I was the ORC’s chief vet.
In the report I cited one hundred and forty-four instances where lame horses were entered for racing. In practically all these cases I had recommended to the stewards that the horses not be allowed to run. In seventy of those cases the stewards, who have the final authority in such matters—even above a veterinarian whose job is looking after horses—told the trainers to go ahead and run the horses anyway.
Now, in those one hundred and forty-four cases there were only forty different horses involved. Some of them I had reported to the stewards two or three times; one, the Ted Wes horse I mentioned previously, I reported fifteen times. In 1951 there were about twelve hundred horses racing on Ontario tracks. In a crowd like that forty would hardly be mussed. Yet the stewards persistently gave in to a few horsemen and permitted crippled horses to run.
How can that be changed? Simply by enforcing the rules of the Ontario Racing Commission and giving any competent and honest veterinary surgeon, instead of the stewards, the final say on whether a horse is fit to race. In 1950, when the ORC was organized to “govern, control, direct and regulate horse racing in Ontario in all its forms,” one of its first and most important rules called for a pre-race examination of horses “by veterinary surgeons in the commission’s employ. Such examinations must pass the horse as being sound, fit and ready for racing or the horse will be scratched.”
Furthermore, according to rule 104, the veterinarian himself had the authority to scratch the horse. “On the morning of each racing day he (the veterinarian) shall familiarize himself with the physical condition of all entries and if, in his opinion, an entry is not fit, sound and ready for racing, he shall order it scratched and inform the stewards.”
All the members of the Racing Commission knew the rule was there. So did Premier Frost, because I told him, in my report on the racing of lame horses. I also sent copies of the report to the federal Minister of Agriculture, James G. Gardiner, the Toronto Humane Society, the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Toronto newspapers and dozens of other people and organizations. I thought Queen Elizabeth might be interested, since she donates fifty guineas each year to the winner of the Queen’s Plate, so I also sent a copy of the report to her representative, Governor-General Massey. (His secretary sent it back, with thanks.)
Anyone who wanted to read that report knew that the Racing Commission rules gave the ORC veterinarian the right to rule on the fitness of a horse, without interference from anyone.
Well, after the first two months of the 1951 season in Ontario, that rule might just as well not have been there. The ORC ignored it and gave the stewards — not the vet—the final say on whether a horse was fit to run. The reason for this, according to Tupper Bigelow, the ORC chairman, was that in New York and on other major tracks, the stewards had the last word.
Are the stewards qualified to pass judgment on such matters? I say no, and so did Dr. A. Savage, of the University of Manitoba, then president of the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association, in a statement issued on April 29, 1952.
“Legal tribunals recognize that lameness in a horse is a manifestation of pain,” Savage said. “Consequently if a lame horse is worked, to say nothing of being raced, it constitutes cruelty. Therefore the veterinary surgeon specializing in that branch of veterinary science is the only recognized authority capable of passing final judgment in such cases.”
Anyone interested in my report knew that Savage said that, because that was another thing I took pains to point out.
For the past three years I have gone on and on telling anyone who would listen —and some who didn’t want to—that the simple and sensible way to stop the racing of lame horses was to operate within the letter of racing rules and let a competent and honest veterinarian decide whether a horse is fit to run.
Nothing has ever been done about it officially, and I can only conclude that the powers that be don’t care whether lame horses are made to run races— and whether the public that bets on them because it doesn’t know any better loses thousands of dollars a year.
“Horsemen complain ORC vet too strict,” the Toronto Telegram reported in a headline on June 12, 1951. I was strict. Every time I saw a lame horse I tried to get him barred from racing so that the injury that caused his lameness could be healed.
In a book on the treatment of horses’ injuries, Col. R. S. Timmis, who is chairman of the racing committee of the Ontario SPCA, wrote several years ago: “The cure for all lameness is the removal of the cause and rest, absolute rest, of the injured part.” Yet a year ago, in a report on Ontario racing, he referred to “lameness, real and apparent.” In some cases of lameness, he said, there was no pain. This is true. But the reason behind it is that a horse sometimes goes past the point of pain to where an injured joint, say, has become solid bone, and so he feels no pain. (This process of consolidation of the joint is called ankylosis.)
“Ice is used to help a horse and remove swelling and pain,” Timmis reported. And so it is. But it’s common knowledge too that ice is used on the day a horse races. He is lame; he is “iced”; he goes into a race. How is it possible to escape the conclusion that a lame horse is therefore permitted to race?
Bad as the situation is in Ontario, it is better than in other parts of Canada. Under the Ontario Racing Commission all horses entered are given a pre-race examination by the commission’s veterinarians, first on the morning they’re due to run and again in the paddock before they go on the track. If the vet notices a lame horse he reports it to the stewards, with a recommendation that it be scratched. In many cases the stewards accept such a recommendation, but the evil lies in the fact that they can reject it.
But in no other province is there a compulsory veterinary examination of every horse entered for a race. In other words, it’s up to the owner or trainer whether a horse starts—unless it is noticeably in distress the stewards automatically take the owner’s word that it’s fit.
I was a veterinarian only on Ontario tracks, but when I started to prepare this article I asked about conditions in other parts of Canada.
In Vancouver Robert M. Randall, director of the Exhibition Park track, admitted “there are one or two cases of an unfit horse getting to the track every year—all racecourses encounter that sort of thing.” Icing or freezing horses, however, isn’t frowned upon. “If a horse has an inflammation the icing helps him to run. I don’t think it does the horse any harm. If a horse comes out of a race sore we put him on the Vet’s List. He is not taken off this list and allowed to run until the vet considers him fit again.”
Prairie horses were the fittest of any I saw during my year on Ontario tracks. I guess the western owners must like their horses because there is nothing to stop them from running a lame horse on prairie tracks if they can get by the naked eye of the paddock judge and the stewards. The paddock judge would certainly report any obvious case of lameness to the track vet or the stewards. But he is not specifically trained to recognize lameness.
For years Quebec racetracks were the most loosely conducted of any in Canada and a common saying about an ageing or faltering horse was: “If he can’t win, ship him to Quebec.” The result was a startling procession of horses with an alarming variety of infirmities. Blue Bonnets at Montreal no longer operates for thoroughbreds, but at Connaught Park, near Hull, Que.—Ottawa’s neighbor—there is a two-week meeting. There in 1947 four thoroughbreds were abandoned in broken-down barns after the racing season.
The track veterinarian at Connaught Park last year was Dr. Robert C. S. Radmore, who two years ago was convicted of cruelty to animals. He has since ceased to be a registered veterinarian in Ontario and therefore is not legally entitled to practice at all.
Why do horsemen race lame horses, subject them to pain, victimize the people who bet on them? Isn’t it obvious that a lame horse cannot run as well as a sound one? Of course it is, but horsemen are incurable optimists. They will buy a good race horse for a small sum, perhaps, because be is lame. They are sure they can repair this ailment, or at least minimize it long enough so the horse can get around the track. Everyone has a “secret remedy” that he is sure will make a lame horse sound. And so they go on and on racing unfit horses.
The mystery is not so much why these optimists keep on trying as why the racetracks, the racing associations, the government bodies that regulate the sport, the humane societies, the police, why anyone in the world opposed to cruelty permits the practice to go on.
The Fort Erie Race Fix
All through 1951 I kept asking Ontario’s racing commissioners why it was necessary to race lame horses. I haven’t stopped asking. In 1952 I was replaced as chief veterinary surgeon. Since then the Ontario Veterinary Association has declared me unethical because I charged that some fellow members were not fighting cruelty to horses, as I was. I have been called stubborn, un-cooperative, a bull in a china shop.
The reasons for it all lie in what I saw during the time I was chief vet on Ontario tracks.
When I went to work on these tracks the ORC was only a year old, but it was already rushing ahead with the job of cleaning up racing, which had not been in good odor. The commission’s work was to result in the exposure of a plot by jockeys and trainers to fix races at the Fort Erie track. Evidently the ORC was also determined to get a better break for horses. It gave me authority to scratch (remove from a race) any unfit horse and told me to keep a list of lame horses. No horse on this list could race until I certified him sound.
This wide and useful authority lasted less than a month—just long enough for horsemen to discover I didn’t intend to let any lame horse run a race. They began to complain to the stewards. On May 22 I examined a horse named Chance Toss at Toronto Woodbine Park and found that he was lame in his right front leg. He was in training, being exercised steadily, and on May 31 he was entered to race. I looked at him that morning and told the stewards he was too lame to run. They decided to let him go anyway. He did poorly and after the race he was quite lame. By the end of June in Hamilton Chance Toss was a cripple, but with bandages, liniments or other means he could actually keep going. When he was entered on June 27 I examined him and recommended that he be scratched. He wasn’t.
At this point I tried to take a stand against the racing of a lame horse and I reported to ORC chairman Bigelow: “It should be pointed out to them (the stewards) that there is a law prohibiting the use of lame or suffering horses. I consider it inexcusable for them to allow such a horse as Chance Toss to run. By the veterinary record his condition is getting progressively worse.”
Did that save Chance Toss? On July 12 at Fort Erie he ran again and actually won on a muddy track, which helps sore-legged horses since there is less shock on their legs than would be the case on a hard track. He ran again on July 24 and didn’t win and again on Aug. 22 and again on Aug. 28. By now Chance Toss was very lame and when I recommended once more that he be barred from racing the stewards agreed and his entry on Sept. 20 was refused.
But at Long Branch he was permitted to run on Oct. 15 and Oct . 25, in spite of the fact I had ordered him scratched, and he finished well back of the winners.
Chance Toss was by no means an unusual case. The record of the horse named Ted Wes, owned by Eddie Milner, a Toronto horseman, was much worse. Through the long list of my reports to Bigelow the name of this horse runs like a haunted tortured soul, which he was. His lameness got progressively worse. Yet he ran fifteen times.
Early in the year I placed him on the veterinary list. There, protected by ORC rules, he wasn’t supposed to run at all. Then on June 30 the ORC’s supervisor of racing, W. J. Risewick, told me at Hamilton that Ted Wes would be taken off my list on the ORC’s orders. Next day I received a letter from Bigelow confirming the news. I complained to him in my report: “This horse is much too lame for any veterinary surgeon to permit him to race and I cannot understand stewards allowing it, especially when it is a case that might respond to treatment.”
Each time the horse ran—every five or six days—I recommended that he be scratched, after examining him, and each time the recommendation was ignored by the stewards. Finally on Aug. 6 I asked Bigelow for a directive excusing Ted Wes from such checkups since “the stewards seem determined to allow this horse to run regardless of my recommendation. ”
Finally, after Ted Wes had finished first in a race at Woodbine Park on Sept. 15, I tried to make the commission understand the cruelty involved in racing a lame horse. Lameness is almost always caused by pain, which is shown by inflammation—usually in a joint. Sometimes this inflammation can be reduced by exercise, and so a horse is given a workout before a race. But after the race the inflammation is much worse and the pain much greater. Would you run a mile on an inflamed leg? Horses are driven to it.
Why, when the ORC rules were clearly aimed at stamping out the racing of lame horses, did the ORC stewards permit it? The answer lies in the reaction of the horsemen. From the first few weeks after I began the pre-race examinations on May 5, 1951, there were rumblings in the ranks of owners and trainers.
On June 12 the Toronto Telegram reported :
The veterinary is in a ticklish spot. He is put there by the commission to protect the fans from wagering on horses that are unfit to run. It was a move long overdue because for many years lame horses paraded, ran and broke down in full view of those who bet and believed the horse was fit. But now horsemen complain that there are few perfectly sound horses, that most of them have some ailment.
If the veterinary, Cairns, eases off on his job, gives a little leeway here and there to slightly unsound horses, how far can he actually go? If he goes at all he is not doing the job the commission asked him to do to protect the public.
But the commission had apparently made up its mind whose side it was on. It took a hasty look at the practice on other racetracks and decided to follow the method in New York State, where the stewards, not the veterinary surgeon, have the final authority on whether a horse is able to run. Dr. James G. Catlett, the chief vet in New York, told me at the time that the veterinary was never overruled —but he could be. From that time on in Ontario I could be overruled too— and I was, seventy times in the next four months, or once every second day.
And what about the public, whose interests I had been paid to protect?
On Aug. 28 at Stamford Park, near Fort Erie, a horse named Bank Balance was entered in a race. I saw he was lame and recommended that he be scratched. The stewards let him run and he finished forty lengths back of the winner. I told steward R. Van Den Bergh it was a disgrace to allow such a horse to run and I reported to ORC chairman Bigelow that “No consideration is being given by the stewards to the public.”
On Sept. 8 at Woodbine I asked to have a horse named Sun Herod scratched for lameness, but the request was refused. Ten thousand dollars was bet on Sun Herod in that race and he ran third last. Coming off the track he was pitifully lame and never recovered. His owner had bought him for $9,500 but later gave him away. In another race at Woodbine a horse named Mark High appeared lame in the paddock and I recommended he be scratched. He went to the post at odds of 2 to 1 with $17,336 bet on him and ran last.
On the year’s last day of racing at Toronto’s Dufferin Park I examined a horse named Spangle Main in the morning and recommended that he be scratched because he was quite lame. The scratch was not approved and the public made the horse a favorite at odds of 8 to 5. On the track I saw the horse limping badly and telephoned the stewards pointing this out and again urging them to scratch the horse. They didn’t. The public wagered $14,000 on Spangle Main, which ran third last and was booed by the crowd at the finish of the race.
I reported to Bigelow that the ORC stewards were just as culpable as jockeys who fix races when they allowed crippled horses to run. “In such cases jockeys did not have to be bribed, for the crippled horses were losers before the gates opened.” I received a letter from the chairman thanking me for the report.
This kind of horse-race policing may appear extremely slipshod from such evidence, but actually the treatment of horses could have been much worse if there had been no pre-race examination at all. The stewards did approve the scratching of many lame horses (seventy-four in the season) and this perhaps made the racing of other lame horses all the more flagrant.
A Flogging in the Stalls
The ORC has jurisdiction over harness racing in Ontario too, but in Canada this is not an affluent sport and it is practically impossible to police it properly. The owners are trainers and often drivers too. Most of them are genuine horse lovers; a few don’t care what it costs a horse to win a race.
At Dufferin Park in Toronto I saw a horse named Grattan Volo, blind, with cataracts in both eyes, entered in two races in a week. There was nothing unlawful about it—his entry had been approved by the ORC-approved stewards. I witnessed the flogging of two horses in their stalls; this is sometimes done after a horse has broken stride in a harness race in the same way you might chastise a dog for chasing cars. The two men responsible: were called to the stewards’ stand; one admitted he had given his horse “a few belts.” Neither was disciplined.
I reported horses with lacerated mouths from makeshift wire attachments on their bits. This makes it easier to control tough-mouthed horses and is excruciatingly painful. “You see that done everywhere,” one official said when told about it. No action was taken against the trainer.
For the past five years various societies for the prevention of cruelty to animals have been trying to pinpoint specific cases of cruelty to horses in Ontario and Quebec bush camps. All the reports I made on cruelty to race horses were tabled in the Ontario legislature in the spring of 1952, given considerable publicity in Canadian newspapers, delivered to officials of humane societies and societies for the prevention of cruelty to animals. I have not yet seen these societies take any action beyond sending out committees to look at the racetracks.
When Premier Frost got my report he promptly asked the Ontario Racing Commission, which I had accused of condoning these evils, to make “a thorough investigation” of them.
“If there are practices which reasonable people would consider cruel being used on our tracks, then l think they should be remedied,” he told the commission.
Chairman Bigelow meanwhile had told me that I would be assigned to saliva tests if I returned to the racetracks in 1952. I refused this job.
Bigelow then notified Frost of the appointment of two new veterinary surgeons, young graduates of the Ontario Veterinary College. “They come to us,” said Bigelow, “highly recommended by Dr. W. J. R. Fowler, who has been veterinary surgeon of the Ontario Jockey Club for many years and whose reputation is of the greatest eminence.” He also assured the Premier that “No member of the commission would condone for one moment any cruelty to thoroughbred race horses of no matter how minor a character.”
Exactly one year later Fowler resigned as vet for the Jockey Club in protest against cruelty to a horse. At Woodbine Park he examined a horse named Blackamore and told the stewards it should not be permitted to run. “The horse was so lame it could hardly stand up,” Fowler said later. But the ORC stewards let the horse run. It gave a pitiful performance, finishing last.
After four horses were killed in last year’s Grand National Steeplechase at Aintree, England, animal lovers all over Britain rose in arms calling for a stop to the carnage. There is equal carnage—albeit in less concentrated doses—on Canadian racetracks. How do our animal lovers react?
The Toronto Humane Society has two inspectors at racetracks to report on the condition of horses. They are not veterinarians however and do not report on lameness. “If they saw anyone flogging a horse they’d report it,” Col. George Reid, manager of the society, recently told a reporter.
The Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals has a racing committee. In one report it complimented the Ontario Racing Commission—“they have made a grand cleanup and are working hard to complete this cleanup for the good of the sport, the horses and all concerned.” The same report said the SPCA had investigated the resignation of Fowler at Woodbine and the case of Blackamore. “The stewards made a mistake,” the committee reported.
Near Hull, where the four horses were left without care after the 1917 season at Connaught Park, the Humane Society has one unpaid member who keeps an eye on the racetrack. Through his work a charge was laid against the horses’ owner, who was fined. “We’re handicapped by lack of money,” the president of Hull’s Humane Society, J. P. Maloney, said recently.
K. G. Switzer, manager of the Ottawa Humane Society, said: “People keep passing the buck to the humane societies. Anybody can report cruelty to animals, and the police will act on such reports.
Right across Canada, lack of money, lack of interest, lack of courage permit cruelty to race horses. Eighty million dollars was wagered on horses in Canada last year through the racetracks. It’s impossible to compute how many more millions were bet in illegal channels. Yet humane societies haven’t enough money to make sure the horses get a break.
There’s that, and there’s also the fact that every jockey club in Canada has a list of patrons and officers that invariably includes some of the most important citizens in their community or district. It’s hard to believe that such people would knowingly lend their names to any enterprise cruel to animals. For instance, Field Marshal Viscount Alexander of Tunis was patron of the Ontario Jockey Club in 1951 the year I reported dozens of cases of lame horses being run. Without doubt Lord Alexander had no inkling of the conditions I’ve been describing but. the fact remains that the weight of his illustrious name was lent to the race meetings concerned.
The Criminal Code of Canada forbids cruelty to animals, but makes no specific reference to race horses. Two years ago I asked the federal Minister of Agriculture, J. G. Gardiner, if any article in the Criminal Code would apply to the racing of lame horses. He referred the question to the Minister of Justice and gave me this reply: “If the government wishes to do so it could enact legislation making it an offense to allow an unfit horse to run in a horse race.”
“But,” Gardiner added, “I imagine we might experience some difficulty in enforcing a law of that kind.”
When Dr. F. W. Schofield, of the Ontario Veterinary College, reported to the Ontario SPCA on “the cowardly and cruel practice of icing horses,” he also warned: “You are dealing with a difficult group of people, so be wise and reasonable in your approach but inflexible in your opposition to cruelty.”
That would be fine if a wise and reasonable approach were at work, and if cruelty to race horses were being stamped out. But it’s not.