Oscar De La Torre: Racism Within PETA Needs To Be Addressed

Oscar de la Torre, an activist and organizer who has led efforts to protect backstretch workers at Southern California racetracks, recently authored an opinion piece in the Spanish language newspaper La Opinión in which he said animal rights extremists have subjected Hispanic workers to openly hostile racism while protesting against horse racing at Santa Anita and Del Mar.

“Based on my experience over the last several years helping to organize largely immigrant Latinx workers in the horse racing community in California,” de la Torre wrote in an English language version of the article sent to the Paulick Report, “it is time for the animal advocacy extremists who oppose the sport to take a long look in the mirror and ask themselves some hard questions, too.

“At one demonstration,” he wrote, “a PETA supporter called us ‘uneducated monkeys’ and another told our workers to ‘go back to their taco truck.’ One white animal advocate inferred that a Latina woman on our side ‘looked like a prostitute’ and on that same day the San Diego County Sheriffs arrested a PETA activist for pushing and injuring a horse racing supporter.

“Unfortunately,” de la Torre added, “the reality is that these animal advocacy extremists are primarily privileged white people for whom animal welfare is a higher priority than the economic well being of their neighbors of color.

Following is the full translated version of the article.

Racism Within PETA Needs To Be Addressed
By Oscar de la Torre
Our country has reached a point of reckoning as it relates to racism. Mahatma Gandhi’s celebrated quote, “we must be the change we want to see in the world,” couldn’t be more relevant than today. George Floyd’s tragic death at the hands of Minneapolis police was the flashpoint that inspired activism not seen since the days of the Civil Rights Movement. It has led to many companies, cultural institutions and other organizations re-examining their own commitments to equality and diversity. It has spurred a national conversation about systemic racism, inherent bias and unequal treatment of people of color — some conscious racism by people of ill will and some unconscious support of systems and institutions that need mending.

Based on my experience over the last several years helping to organize largely immigrant Latinx workers in the horse racing community in California, it is time for the animal advocacy extremists who oppose the sport to take a long look in the mirror and ask themselves some hard questions, too.

In the last 18 months, as backstretch workers have rallied to protect their livelihoods confronting animal advocates at California’s race tracks and at public meetings of the California Horse Racing Board, our people have been subjected to openly hostile racism from those who demand a ban on horse racing. At one demonstration, a PETA supporter called us “uneducated monkeys” and another told our workers to “go back to their taco truck.” One white animal advocate inferred that a Latina woman on our side “looked like a prostitute” and on that same day the San Diego County Sheriffs arrested a PETA activist for pushing and injuring a horse racing supporter. Most recently on opening day at Del Mar one of their prominent leaders gave made an obscene gesture at us and pulled a full “Karen” by calling the police on some of our workers, claiming falsely that they were threatening to infect her with Covid 19.

Unfortunately, the reality is that these animal advocacy extremists are primarily privileged white people for whom animal welfare is a higher priority than the economic well being of their neighbors of color. What else can we conclude from their callous disregard of our livelihoods? The racist remarks and treatment we have experienced points to a deeper problem within these groups.

A quick Google search on “racism, PETA” produced a series of stories where PETA compares the enslavement of blacks to animal abuse. This isn’t new for PETA. In one of its provocative ads, PETA compared eating meat to the treatment of Jews during the Holocaust. More recently, PETA operatives hijacked the Black Lives Matter movement to promote their rejection of “speciesism.” In an ad barred from airing during this year’s Super Bowl, the organization depicted animals taking a knee while the national anthem played in the background. Perhaps a little sensitivity training is in order.

Unless I missed something, based on a review of its web site and recent annual reports, there is not a single person of color on PETA’s Board or among its executive management team. I wonder if all those Hollywood celebrities (also exclusively white per the PETA web site) who lend their likeness and send donations to PETA would think twice if they knew how vastly under-represented Blacks and Latinos are there?

The people I work with know that race horses receive the best care possible. They are tended to round the clock and kept strong, fit and healthy. The animal advocacy extremists want racing banned, with no consideration for the consequences of that ban. A prohibition of the sport would create a humanitarian crisis, as it would end thousands of jobs for decent, hard-working people and put them at economic risk during a homelessness crisis throughout our state. And it would create an animal welfare crisis as these horses would face mass euthanasia without the income from racing that supports their care. Knowing this to be true, the California State Legislature and Gov. Newsom have implemented a series of reforms to strengthen the oversight and safety of the horses under our care and every worker I know welcomes the change as our jobs depend on horses living and thriving.

But put aside for a moment our vastly different points of view about horse racing. As the country reflects on systems and ideologies that oppress and marginalize people of color, it is time to call out the hypocrisy of those who espouse to advocate for animal rights while at the same time show blatant disregard for human rights.

Oscar de la Torre is an activist and organizer working to end systemic racism while advancing social, environmental and economic justice throughout California. He has served eighteen years on the Santa Monica Malibu Unified School District Board of Education and is President of the California Latino School Board Association. He is the founder of the Pico Youth & Family Center, an organization credited with reducing youth violence and advancing peace, unity & social justice in LA’s Westside communities. Currently, he is the lead organizer working to strengthen protections for backstretch workers in horse racing throughout Southern California.  He can be reached at odelatorre16@yahoo.com

 

 

 

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