On November 7, I had the pleasure of presenting at the Student Agricultural Law Symposium, hosted by the Agricultural Law Section of the State Bar of Michigan. It was a wonderful opportunity to address members of the agricultural law section as well as students, faculty, and staff at Michigan State University College of Law.
The paper I presented, “Transgressing Trainers and Enhanced Equines,” discusses the use of drugs in racehorses. I don’t want to give away too much – you can read the entire piece in the upcoming volume of the Journal of Animal and Natural Resource Law! – but in my presentation I touched on how the use of drugs has impacted the Thoroughbred racing industry. Following my presentation, the judges were able to ask questions, one of which was: could the FDA have a hand in regulating drugs in the racing industry?
I have to admit that I hadn’t considered the FDA despite their title (Food and Drug Administration) because to me, horse racing falls under the jurisdiction of either the USDA or gaming authorities. But what if the FDA did have a role? What if their regulatory enforcement powers were combined with the powers of local racetracks and state regulatory agencies? Maybe – just maybe – the tracks would be able to enforce raceday medication rules more effectively. But that still wouldn’t address the lack of funding for labs, or the cultural issue at the heart of it all: letting horses run on any kind of drugs.
After my presentation, one of the audience members approached me and said, “You need a celebrity to take the issue to Congress!” I think this is a good point. In a recent issue of Sidelines magazine, there was an article about Priscilla Presley and her fight to ban soring in the Tennessee Walking Horse Industry (shameless plug: if you’re interested in soring and the Horse Protection Act, check out my article published with the Kentucky Journal of Equine, Agricultural, and Natural Resource Law). Mrs. Presley appears to have had some success – she certainly has brought more attention to the issue. Racing could use a similar spokesperson: someone with enough of a background in the industry to make them legitimate, and with enough star power to get national attention. That’s how we can accomplish change in a Congress that appears not to be able to do anything: get constituents to talk to their representatives and senators, in a united voice.
What do you think? Could a celebrity voice help the racing industry become less of a dark horse? We’d love your take on the issue!