rspca

Love Parties, Hate Whips

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The Spring Races may seem like a harmless day out to get dressed up and enjoy the sunshine, but have you stopped to consider what is involved in horse racing?

There are significant animal welfare problems inherent in the horse racing industry, that include problems with over–supply, housing, feeding, socialisation, training, injuries, whipping, administration of banned or unregistered substances, physical overexertion and fatigue and the fate of unwanted horses.

If you’d like to use this time of year to learn more and support alternatives to spring racing, check out our info pack here!

Horse Welfare why you shouldn't support horse racing
1. Use of whips

The whipping of race horses is our most visible form of violence towards animals. If it took place away from the track, it would likely be a prosecutable offence. And currently, there is no agreed line within the racing industry as to why whips are used at all.

Whips are an unfortunate part of many horse races, and inflict pain and distress on the animal. A study published in 2012 highlights the unacceptable use of the whip in Thoroughbred racing as well as the inability of stewards to police the rules. Whips, even the so–called “padded” kind are unnecessary, ineffective and needlessly cruel.

A study showed that 98% of horses were being whipped without it impacting the race outcome!

2. Physical overexertion and wastage

All too often we have seen horses injured, collapse and in tragic circumstances, die from the toll that racing can take on their body. Currently, there is no way to ensure that this does not occur. Injuries can involve muscle, bones, tendons and ligaments, and serious injuries often result in immediate euthanasia.

Racehorses may also die suddenly during or after a race, which may be due to heart failure or other causes such as the condition known as Exercise Induced Pulmonary Haemorrhage (EIPH), where bleeding into the lungs occurs. This has been related to over-exertion where horses may be pushed too hard to win.

Some damning Melbourne Cup mortality statistics. In 2013, Verema broke her leg mid race and was euthanased on the track. In 2014, two horses died after racing in the Cup. Admire Rakti died of heart failure in his stall after the race; and Araldo broke his leg and had to be euthanased after being scared by a flag in the crowd. In 2015, Red Cadeaux did not finish after injuring his fetlock in the race, and was euthanased two weeks later. In 2017, Regal Monarch was euthanased after a fall in Race 4 and sadly became the fifth horse to die as a result of racing at the Melbourne Cup in five years.

3. Lack of enforceable standards

There are no mandatory welfare standards for racehorses. Therefore, legal protection is limited to the minimal requirements under State based animal welfare legislation. The RSPCA believes that the implementation of legal welfare standards for racehorses, to eliminate practices that cause injury, pain, suffering or distress, is an urgent government priority.

4. Significant overbreeding and oversupply of racehorses

What happens to a horse who doesn’t measure up to the standards of an owner? Wastage (referring to the number of horses that are ‘lost’ from the racing industry) can occur at any stage of the horse’s life, including prior to racing. The fate of thousands of horses leaving the industry every year raises serious concerns for their welfare. Horses may be rejected from the racing industry due to poor performance, illness, injury and behavioural problems, with the main reason being injury to bones, muscles, tendons or ligaments. As such, these injured horses are unlikely to be used for further riding or breeding which ultimately leads to them being sent to knackeries and abattoirs to be slaughtered.

The RSPCA advocates for the racing industry to adopt responsible breeding practices including reducing the number of racehorses bred, minimising the risk of injury and for every horse to be provided with a suitable alternative role (e.g. recreational horse) on retirement including provisions being made to ensure their welfare.

5. Jumps racing still happens in Victoria and South Australia

Jumps racing involves horses racing at speed, over long distances (at least 2.8 km) over numerous obstacles. Since 2009, at least 58 horses have died as a result of participating in jump racing, however the true toll is believed to be higher as industry statistics on deaths occurring in training and trials are not publicly available. Despite attempts by the industry to improve safety, injury and deaths continue.

Australians know we do not need an excuse to throw a great party – why not plan a special day out with friends or in the office with your colleagues without watching the race that stops a nation? It’s ok to feel uncomfortable about racing. You can start a conversation about your concerns and let people know why racing is of concern to you. If you use social media, you can use the hashtag #LovePartiesHateWhips or #WinnersWithoutWhips to connect with the RSPCA and likeminded people.

Rebecca Hokin
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