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Blog

Racehorse welfare – what’s happened since ‘The Final Race’ was aired on the ABC?

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  • RSPCA Australia
  • Wednesday, 26 August 2020

You might remember in October 2019, the ABC 7.30 program ‘The Final Race’ brought an unprecedented level of attention to the fate of racing horses in Australia, when they’re no longer needed by the industry

If you’d like to revisit the original story you can do so here – but please be warned, the images and footage are very distressing.

It was the story that shocked the nation. Thank you again for joining tens of thousands of other Australians in taking action on that issue.

Here’s a snapshot of what’s happened since then.

Charges laid and guilty pleas over Queensland abattoir

You might recall that some of the worst footage (***warning: linked story contains distressing imagery and information***) shown in that story came from the Meramist Abattoir in Queensland.

Just this month, three men pled guilty in court to a number of animal cruelty offences in relation to the abattoir, after the responsible agency Biosecurity Queensland pressed charges.

In total, the trio received thousands of dollars in fines – though the response from the community was, understandably, this was nowhere near enough for the suffering they caused.

RSPCA calls national horse groups together to find answers

Following the 7.30 program, the RSPCA led calls for a nationwide solution to what is a national problem.

In November 2019, we brought together progressive industry leaders and thinkers from the seven peak national equestrian bodies from around the country.

We came together to talk about all the welfare issues identified and how we can all work together to improve the outcomes for horses retiring from racing.

This group has met twice since then, including just this week. We’re staying focused on what needs to change, and on making sure those changes happen.

New racing welfare working group established

Also following the ABC 7.30 program, the Thoroughbred Breeders Association put together a working group.

The group’s mission is to improve animal welfare across the Australian thoroughbred industry by reviewing the current situation, looking to the world’s best practice, consulting with participants in the industry, and learning from other animal industries.

The RSPCA’s Dr Bidda Jones is a member of the panel and we’ve made a detailed submission ourselves.

We’re looking forward to seeing the panel’s report, with practical and policy recommendations to address the problems identified in the industry.

Government action in Queensland and Victoria

As a result of the ABC 7.30 program, the Queensland Government conducted an independent inquiry into the management of retired racehorses, including the regulatory and oversight arrangements for abattoirs and knackeries and the transport of horses to those facilities.

The Government accepted all the recommendations from that report and is currently working through their implementation. That includes just this week announcing that electric prodders will no longer be permitted for use on horses, which was one of the recommendations from the inquiry.

At a national level, the Queensland and Victorian Governments are also leading three separate national processes, all of which have been expedited by the response to the 7.30 program.

These include the development of Australian Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines for Livestock at Processing Establishments; a review of the suitability for horses of the existing Australian Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines for the Land Transport of Livestock; and, the development of a proposal for a national horse traceability register.

Progress on retirement plans for some horses

Finally, as a result of the ABC 7.30 program, racing authorities around the country have stepped up their retirement programs for horses leaving the industry.

This is helping a number of individual horses.

However, this is not enough on its own – major and widespread reform of the racing industry is needed so every horse can be provided with a suitable alternative role on retirement, with provisions being made to ensure their long-term welfare.

 

Like much of our work, achieving real and lasting change for racing horses is a long-term endeavour. Our work continues long after the television program ends.

But thanks to this media attention and your support and action, we’re achieving improvements that we would never have thought possible before.

So, thank you again for your ongoing attention to this issue.

As we approach the 2020 Spring Racing Carnival season, we need your continued focus on racehorse welfare as much as ever.

Make sure you subscribe to our e-news to stay up to date.

 

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