Ingrid Newkirk, PETA's president, wrote a blistering letter to Hillary Clinton, whose daughter, Chelsea, was in the paddock for the Kentucky Derby. After calling racing "the equivalent of child sweatshops," Newkirk accused Hillary, who bet on the filly, of being "culpable in [Eight Belles'] destruction." She called Chelsea's day at the track "as despicable as a attending a dogfight."
In a Web petition titled "Drugged, whipped and run to death," PETA requests congressional hearings and reforms including racing on synthetic surfaces, banning the whip and ending the racing of 2-year-olds. It calls for the suspension of Eight Belles' trainer and her jockey, who, according to PETA, "whipped her mercilessly."PETA's characterization of thoroughbred abuse doesn't stand up to scrutiny, though. Eight Belles finished gamely in second place, galloped out well, then, a quarter-mile past the finish line, collapsed and was euthanized immediately. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens said it was probably a more humane death than that granted death row prisoners. Given PETA's factual errors, overly simplistic arguments and surprising ignorance of the sport, it's hard not to suspect it of exploiting the filly's death for its own fund-raising goals, says a somber Larry Jones, Eight Belles' trainer.