Our role

The state and territory member Societies provide services to animals in need through their shelters and inspectorates. In the national office, RSPCA Australia works to influence animal welfare policy, practice and legislation across the country
Go to Our role

Key issues

The RSPCA advocates for the welfare of animals across a number of industries, issues and platforms. Help from our supporters is important to progress change. Working together is key.
Go to Key issues
take action live sheep export alternate
Priority issue
Australia is closer than it has ever…
Live sheep export

Support us

Whether you're an individual or a business, there are multiple ways you can support the RSPCA
Go to Support us
An animal in the RSPCA care being cared for by an RSPCA vet
Donate now to support your local RSPCA and make a difference to animal welfare across Australia
Donate

About

The RSPCA is an independent, community-based charity providing animal care and protection services across the country.
Go to About
about us national statistics
Read our National Statistics
Compiled on a national basis by RSPCA…
Annual statistics

Adopt

By choosing adoption, you’ll not only have the chance to make a friend for life, but you’ll be giving an animal a second chance and helping support the RSPCA.
Go to Adopt
adopt a pet logo
Visit the Adoptapet website
Make a difference to a pet’s life today.
Search Adoptapet

RSPCA Australia has welcomed a new study that calls into question the use of whips in horse racing, and strengthens the case for whip-free racing.

The peer-reviewed study – published now in the journal Animals - effectively debunks traditional arguments by the racing industry, that the whip is needed to maintain “racing integrity” (to give every horse a fair chance of winning) and ensure the safety of riders by helping with steering.

The study of 1,178 starters from 126 races compared stewards reports from 59 “whipping-permitted” and 67 “whipping-free” races in the UK, and found no link between the use of whips and fairness or safety in the race.

Specifically, the study compared races that took place over a similar time period, at the same racecourse, over the same distance, with the same number of horses, and similar track conditions – meaning the only significant difference was whether or not the whip was used.

For “whipping-free” races, the study examined the “Hands and Heels” series, a series of races for apprentice jockeys, where whips cannot be used except to get a reluctant horse moving at the start of the race or for safety reasons.

“The study has given us a chance to test a really culturally entrenched assumption about whip use in racing,” said lead researcher, Dr Kirrilly Thompson from the University of South Australia.

“There’s an assumption that whipping horses is important for the safety of riders. There’s also a belief that whipping horses makes them go faster. But no one’s actually tested these things before,” said Dr Thompson.

“We found that whipping doesn’t work, and in particular, whipping doesn’t make horses run any faster. There were no significant differences between movement on course, interference on course, incidents related to jockey behaviour, or race finishing times.

“We can’t find anything to recommend the use of whips,” she said.

RSPCA Australia Chief Scientist, Dr Bidda Jones, said there was no good reason to defend the use of the whip in horse racing.

“We know that the public no longer supports whipping horses – for example, a recent poll found 69% of Victorians think horses should not be whipped in the normal course of a race, and 71% of Victorians who attend or bet on horse racing would continue to do so if whips were banned,” said Dr Jones.

“Now we know that not only are whips unpopular, they’re also unnecessary as they don’t appear to affect the actual race.

“In other words, the whip can no longer be defended as a tool for racing speed, integrity or safety.

“This new study indicates that ‘hands and heel’ races could be added to race programs in Australia right now, with no change to jockey safety or race outcomes.

“Allowing whipping-free races would be a great first step towards phasing out the use of whips altogether,” said Dr Jones.

Racing Australia rules currently allow a horse to be whipped five times prior to the final stage of a race, and then an unlimited number of times during the last 100 metres.

Editors’ notes: The full study is available here and was part-funded by RSPCA Australia. Video of an interview with Dr Thompson (for audio-visual grabs) is also available on request to media@rspca.org.au.

subscribe box

Stay informed on big issues and how you can help improve animal welfare across Australia.

Subscribe today and we’ll keep you updated on all the latest campaigns, events and news.