You might have seen late last week, we released the results of a poll we commissioned on the use of whips in racing.
We asked a leading independent research agency to conduct the research for us in late March. They surveyed around 1,533 people from all over Australia – a greater-than-representative national sample – and the questions we asked them can be summarised as follows:
1) Do you think horses should be hit with a whip in the normal course of a race?
2) In the last 12 months, how often have you watched and/or bet on a horse race?
A) At least once a week
B) At least once a month
C) Once or twice (e.g., the Melbourne Cup)
D) Not at all
3) [those who answered A, B or C above were then asked …]
If the rules did not allow any horses to be hit with a whip (except in emergency/safety situations), would you continue to watch and/or bet on horse races?
We were really surprised just how strong the results were.
First, around 3 in every 4 Australians (74%) think horses should NOT be hit with a whip.
That the wider community is opposed to whip use is no surprise – especially when you consider that hitting that same horse with that same whip away from the track would generally be considered a prosecutable animal cruelty offence.
But the numbers are even bigger than we thought.
Previous research we’d read or commissioned found around 66% of respondents opposed the use of the whip in racing.
We had a sense that concern over whip use was growing, and these more recent, more significant results suggest that’s exactly the case.
Second – and this is the big one – around 9 out of 10 people (87%) who watch or bet on racing will continue to do so if whipping is stopped.
Almost 90 per cent! That’s a remarkable result.
This is important because, the racing industry has long used the argument that serous punters want to see horses ‘ridden out’ - that is, ridden hard to the finish line – to know they’ve been given the best chance of winning.
This research proves that’s just not true.
And these figures hold firm for even the most serious punters (people watching and gambling on racing at least once a week or more). Again, 90 per cent will continue to watch and bet if whips aren’t used.
Without the whip, horses will still win races - and come second, and third, and so on.
In fact, there’s a strong argument to suggest that if no one is allowed to whip their horse, it creates a more even playing field that relies upon the speed of the horse and skill of the jockey.
As we often say, good racing should be a celebration of good breeding, good training and good horsemanship – hitting the horse with a whip shouldn’t come into it at all.
Now we know that ending routine whip use isn’t only good for horses; it isn’t a concern for punters either, and will fulfil the wider community’s expectations of how racehorses should be treated as well.
It's about time the racing industry caught up to the facts: that neither spectators, punters or the wider public want to see horses whipped on the race track.