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SportsHorseracingBelmont Stakes

At Belmont, group protests cruelty to horses

Organizers cite thousands of deaths annually to race horses.

The start of the fifth race at Belmont

The start of the fifth race at Belmont Park in Elmont ahead of the 150th running of the Belmont Stakes on Saturday. Photo Credit: John Roca

Their voices rang out loudly, as women in tall fascinators, and men in seersucker suits skirted by. “You bet, they die.”

Though about 90,000 people were expected to descend on Belmont Park Saturday to watch the 150th running of the Belmont Stakes, at least 30 people on the outside presented a far different perspective. Horse racing, said protest organizer, Patrick Battuello is cruel, and leads to the death of thousands of animals each year.

“We have to clear that hurdle of this being viewed as a sport and these horses as athletes, but in the end, this is just exploitation,” he said. Just Thursday, a colt died at Belmont after sustaining a broken shoulder, and Battuello’s website — horseracingwrongs.com — has estimated that 2,000 race horses are killed annually. The numbers, which are broken down by state, month and year, come from Freedom of Information Act requests and published reports.

“Horses are killed after being injured and tortured for the sake of trivial human entertainment and public opinion is finally catching up with public morals in that, exploiting and abusing animals for our entertainment is completely wrong and heartless,” said Jill Carnegie, 34, of Manhattan, who cited the use of “aggressive metal bits,” as well as chains and whips.

Unsurprisingly, the protesters weren’t generally met with approval, as hundreds walked through near Belmont’s Gate 5, a handful stopping to yell or curse at them, only for protesters to yell right back. But it was worth it, Carnegie said, even if one person changes their mind.

“The majority of people, when they come here, they want to have a good time and of course they see us as a distruption of that,” she said, adding that at least one man, a person named Lou, told her he was horrified at what he learned and turned back out of Belmont.

“I had to shake his hand and tell him what an exceptional person he is,” she said.

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