by Dianne Graham, OEF Executive Director
There has been much written regarding the plight of the horse racing industry in Ontario since the Drummond report announcement, including the OEF response “Silence is Not an Option.” Every affected professional group, association and municipality has voiced its concern regarding the far reaching ramifications from the loss of slot machine revenue and its effects on the continued viability for racing in this province.
You may be asking, “How does this possibly affect me? I have nothing to do with racing. I have never even been to a racetrack. I have other things to do and I am busy.” Perhaps even, “Stop bugging me about this, I have heard enough already” or “Doesn’t the OEF have better things to do with its time?” It is critical we take notice of this issue; there will be no second chances. Put very simply, we are an industry on the verge of crisis.
The horse racing industry has provided equestrian sport with a great many of the benefits and services to which it has become accustomed. If the racing sector was to disappear, the world-class standards that the sport horse community now enjoys will over time cease to exist. The quality and availability of feed suppliers, farriers, veterinary services, equine education, including extensive horse welfare research would not continue to be offered in Ontario. Independent product development and innovation are strong and available at an affordable cost and we have access to some of the best equine knowledge and facilities in the world because of racing. Benevolent programs, such as therapeutic riding, will suffer deeply without the large monetary donations racing has provided. Additionally, it is racing that is responsible for funding the multi-million dollar facility expansions at the University of Guelph and the multitude of private veterinarian clinics throughout the province. Sport and recreation are benefactors of both the racing industry’s desire for excellence and education. Are we not all better because of it?
What will happen to your hay bills if farmers lose a significant portion of their market? Farmers have reported to me of losing individual hay orders of over $10,000. What about your veterinarian who cannot make ends meet in Ontario? A veterinarian specialist told me last week that their business is already down over 25%. What about the farrier, the commercial shipping company, the local car dealership and the barn builder to name just a few? What will happen when your horse is sick and there is no help for him because there was no funding for the research that could have helped him? What about all the people who will lose their way of life or the thousands of horses that will most certainly be destined for slaughter? One veterinarian asked me “Do we have to show this government a pit filled with euthanized horses before they will listen? Do we have to relegate decent hard working people whom have been tax paying citizens all their lives to becoming welfare recipients? Does any of this bother you?“
The OEF was forced to shelve a horse welfare program that took a great deal of time and effort to develop because the racing industry was no longer in a financial position to fund it. This program could have had an impact on hundreds and over time thousands of horses. What does the future hold for these horses now? Tragically, this is just the beginning. Hundreds of breedings have been cancelled, tractor orders halted, new barn buildings ceased. I have reports of abattoirs doubling the size of their holding pens in Quebec. Over 20,000 horses in this province are now vulnerable and in excess of 60,000 people stand to lose their jobs.
Our ability to mobilize will determine the legacy we leave for the next generation. Ontario has a breeding and racing program that has become one of the most successful and envied in the world. This has not been a subsidy program but a payment for services rendered and has resulted in the stimulation and successful rebirth of many of Ontario’s rural communities. What has taken lifetimes to develop and cultivate will be decimated. Your actions regarding this issue could impact the future of the horse industry in Ontario.
We could place blame here on how and why the industry got to this place and whom allowed it to happen. The time to answer those questions will come, but now the industry is in survival mode and they need our support. If sport and recreational horse owners as a group do nothing, we play right into this government’s hands because that’s what they are expecting. Let’s change the play! I challenge each and every one of you to create some noise and “be the difference”!
Contact your local MPP and let them know what you think about this issue and the long-term impact it will have on the future of our sport and the livelihoods of those involved. You could also unite fellow horse owners in your area to organize a rally and have your voice heard.
My Ontario Includes Horse Racing…Does Yours?
The future is now. Make a difference. Be heard.
CLICK HERE to find your Member of Provincial Parliament.
CLICK HERE to download a pdf version of this statement.
CLICK HERE for news release: “Loss Of Slot Machine Revenue at Ontario’s Racetracks Threatens Economy”