Protestors with Direct Action Everywhere, or DxE, organized at Golden Gate Fields on Thursday, calling for the facility’s closure following an uptick in horse deaths.
DxE is a global network of animal rights activists who rescue injured animals and document animal abuse and cruelty at farms, slaughterhouses and other animal care facilities, according to DxE press coordinator Samantha Faye.
The protest — DxE’s first against Golden Gate Fields, which is owned by the Stronach family, worth $13.2 billion — follows the death of five horses this year, four of which were killed last month “while being at ridden at track.” Faye also cited COVID-19 spread and increasing wealth inequality as reasons for the demonstrations.
“DxE is demonstrating at Golden Gate Fields because the time has come to stop abusing and killing horses for profit and the enjoyment of billionaires,” Faye said in an email. “It’s time to use the track for something that benefits the residents of the East Bay.”
The demonstration occurred at noon and involved about 17 protestors on Gilman Street holding signs including “shut down Golden Gate Fields,” Faye added. In addition to the protest, four activists with DxE blocked the track using a direct action technique known as the “sleeping dragon” formation, which involves protestors lying on their backs while locked together between polyvinyl chloride pipes.
Berkeley City Council approved a recommendation last October to send a letter to the California Horse Racing Board to request an investigation into the welfare of the horses at Golden Gate Fields. The letter came after a reported 22 horse deaths at the track as of Oct. 5, 2020, and 20 horse deaths in 2019.
The California Horse Racing Board has yet to publicly launch an investigation into Golden Gate Fields, according to a letter DxE wrote in 2021. The letter called for an end to horse racing and training at Golden Gate Fields and a suspension of the track’s meet license.
Following the protest, Golden Gate Fields released a statement on Twitter to say that while they support the right to protest the race track, they suggest an alternative format for the protestors to air their concerns and are open to discussion.
“We hope that Golden Gate Fields will make good on their invitation to ‘…welcome the opportunity to have this discussion in the appropriate format,’ since they have ignored every single attempt to reach them, by us and by the press,” Faye said in the email.
The protest resulted in the temporary closure of the on-site COVID-19 vaccination clinic and the cancellation of hundreds of vaccination appointments, the Twitter statement noted. Vaccinations have since resumed.
The statement added that Golden Gate Fields will not tolerate methods of “trespassing and endangering others” or the presence of incendiary devices on the track given their danger to both human and horse life.
“Golden Gate Fields is committed to the safety of horses and the people who care for them,” the statement read. “The types of action exhibited today run directly counter to the safe environment we are trying to create.”