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The issue

Australians have expressed their horror at the fate of ex-racing and harness racing horses, as shown in the shocking expose by ABC’s 7.30.

Tens of thousands of people have already called on the industry to immediately take action to prevent horses from suffering terrible slaughter conditions at the end of their careers.

But just as horses deserve a better retirement, they also deserve to be treated humanely while in the industry. Horses are routinely subjected to the use of painful devices in both training and racing with little oversight or awareness of how they are used, how often, and whether they’re actually effective.

While the use of electric shock ‘jiggers’ has been banned for years, unfortunately there are other painful or aversive devices used in racing and training which remain completely legal under the Rules of Racing.

Racehorses are also routinely hit with whips, in our most public form of violence toward animals. This is despite ample evidence showing the use of whips doesn’t affect the race outcome. If horses were whipped in the same way away from the track, it would be a prosecutable animal cruelty offence.

Many Australians also don’t know about the use of ‘tongue-ties’ – a tight strap that ties a horse’s tongue to their jaw in an attempt to prevent them ‘choking’ or avoiding the bit when it cause discomfort. Tongue ties are uncomfortable and distressing to the horse, are used without any requirement for veterinary diagnosis, and there’s little or no evidence that their use is effective or beneficial.

Visit the RSPCA Knowledgebase to find out more.

What needs to change

The RSPCA has serious concerns about animal welfare in horse racing.

Right now, we’re calling for an urgent review into the use of painful and aversive devices, including an end to the cruel and unnecessary routine use of whips.

Given the recent revelations about the use of illegal electric shock jiggers at the highest levels of racing in Australia (including by leading trainer Darren Weir) it’s clear that Racing Australia needs to better investigate and assure the community against illegal practices.

However, while jiggers are banned by racing authorities, the routine use of whips and tongue ties is permitted, despite evidence that these are painful, aversive or distressing to horses.

We’re also asking for urgent action by the racing industry to reduce the number of horses being bred, change training and racing practices to minimise the risk of injury, and to put better plans in place for the retirement of every horse bred, to assure their welfare.

The Australian racing industry should provide accurate information about the experience of every racehorse it produces, from birth to death.

Which is why the RSPCA supports calls for the compulsory collection and publishing of comprehensive life cycle and injury statistics, and the development of a national identification and traceability system for racehorses.

It’s an inevitable reality of racing that some race horses will ultimately be sent for slaughter; however, the industry must acknowledge this is happening, minimise the numbers, and put proper standards in place.

TAKE ACTION

Write to Racing Australia and Harness Racing Australia, to ask for immediate action to improve the welfare of racing horses - throughout their lives.

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