Racehorse Welfare

Abigail used her Private Members Statement to comment on the ABC’s 7.30 report which uncovered systemic abuse of ex-racehorses, encouraging everyone to say Nup to the Cup.

Ms ABIGAIL BOYD (15:27:10): Whenever there are revelations of animal abuse in the horseracing industry the familiar defence is that it is just a few bad apples. So it went when Melbourne Cup-winning trainer Darren Weir and three colleagues who were charged with 34 offences, including corrupt betting, conspiring to deceive stewards and animal torture involving the use of poly pipe and electric shock devices known as jiggers. We are told, "just a few bad apples". So it went again when ABC's 7.30 reported on horses being abused and sent to abattoirs. Viewers saw footage of horses being kicked, dragged and shocked with electric prods. Every year potentially thousands of horses are subjected to abuse. Again, people are told it is just a few bad apples.

It is true that many people involved in horseracing love their animals and treat them well. I believe them when they say that they were horrified at the recent revelations and would work to prevent it happening again. However, I find it hard to reconcile that love for horses with the scientific facts of what horses endure when they train for and compete in races. Statistics show that pain, suffering and premature death is very common in racehorses. Information compiled by the Coalition for the Protection of Racehorses show that 122 horses were killed on the track in the year from 1 August 2018. That is one horse dead on a track every three days. We can expect four horses to die before this year's Melbourne Cup. But even while they are alive and racing most still suffer. 

A 2005 study by the University of Melbourne found that 56 per cent of racehorses have blood in their windpipes and 90 per cent have blood deeper in their lungs caused by exercise‑induced pulmonary haemorrhage. A 2002 study in theEquine Veterinary Journal found that EIPH is "a condition affecting virtually all horses during intense exercise worldwide". Due to their diet and training regime, racehorses are also prone to stomach ulcers. A 2003 study in theAustralian Veterinary Journal found the prevalence of ulcers to range from 66 per cent to 93 per cent. A 2007 study in theNew Zealand Veterinary Journal found the prevalence to be 88 per cent. 

Inflammatory Airway Disease [IAD] is also a common condition. The Australian Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation published a study in 2003 on young thoroughbreds and IAD. It found that more than one-third of racehorses entering stables for training already had some form of lower airway inflammation and others developed inflammation within two weeks. The toxic mix of animals and gambling will always produce bad apples. Some will do whatever it takes to maximise their profits at the expense of the welfare of animals in their care. If you love horses, take a stand and tell the horseracing industry to stop giving our horses bad apples and on 5 November say: Nup to the Cup!

Read the full transcript on Hansard here.

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