In light of the tragic death at the Kentucky Derby of Sen. Hillary Clinton's Derby pick Eight Belles -- the first filly to run in the Derby since 1999 -- Ingrid E. Newkirk, president of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, has written a letter to Clinton protesting her placing a bet to begin with, and asking to enlist her in PETA's campaign against horseracing.
"Horse racing is as indefensible as dog fighting, and Sen. Clinton must step up immediately and condemn it as animal abuse," says Newkirk. "Eight Belles and countless other horses abused in the racing industry suffer horrendously and die just so that people can bet on them as though they were poker hands."
The full letter is below.
"Dear Senator Clinton:
"As a high profile political figure with the esteem of many women, I regret to say that your public support of horseracing—and specifically betting on Eight Belles—makes you culpable in her destruction. I ask you now to publicly condemn races like the Kentucky Derby. Eight Belles ran for her life and was fiercely whipped as she came down that final stretch when she was no doubt in a great deal of pain. We cannot call ourselves a civilized nation if we allow any living being to endure such abuse.
"Races like this are the equivalent of child sweatshops. These are not even seasoned horses: They are young fillies and colts whose joints are not formed enough to endure such a grueling race. Despite this, they are pushed beyond their limits. The Triple Crown and other major horse races have become the graveyards of too many horses who were called champions. For example, Go For Wand, who went down in the 1990 Breeders' Cup Distaff and then stumbled up and tried to keep running with her broken leg dangling; Union City, who fractured a leg in the 1993 Preakness and was destroyed; Prairie Bayou, who that same year suffered a compound fracture in the Belmont Stakes and had to be destroyed; George Washington, who was euthanized after breaking his leg while running the Preakness last year; and of course Barbaro, the 'poster horse' of the racing industry's failures and excesses, who despite efforts could not be saved from the injuries sustained during the 2006 Preakness. Barbaro's injuries were terrible—fractures of his canon bone, sesamoids, and long pastern as well as the dislocation of the fetlock joint. These are just a few of the horses we hear about—they are the winners, the horses who run the big races. Hundreds of horses meet the same painful, deadly fate every year in the horseracing industry.
"A race track is not a place for a fun day out, and we are writing to Chelsea on that score. Attending the Derby is as despicable as attending a dogfight. For most—not a few—of the horses you see will not end up put out to pasture on a beautiful ranch but will be sent overseas to be slaughtered for someone's dinner plate. At some point, all horses stop winning.
"PETA takes no position on whether you win or lose the race you are in, but we call on you to publicly reject betting on such hideous spectacles of domination over wonderful animals who deserve more than pain and death for human profit and amusement.
"Very truly yours,
"Ingrid E. Newkirk"President"