Horse racing has been proven to be unjustifiably cruel. It's time to shut it down.
But until this happens, the cruelty perpetrated by the industry needs to to be cracked down on, with regulation tightened and unacceptable practices like whipping outlawed.
Abigail spoke in Parliament about the need to tighten regulation of and ultimately transition out of horse racing.
Ms ABIGAIL BOYD (15:50): The Greens strongly support the Racehorse Legislation Amendment (Welfare and Registration) Bill 2021. We thank the Animal Justice Party and the Hon. Mark Pearson for introducing it. The Greens know horseracing to be cruel and unjustifiable. As such, we campaigned for an end to the industry. With one horse dying every three days on Australian racetracks, there is simply no place for this industry in our society. It is time to shut it down. The Greens advocate for a phased transition towards a shutdown of the horseracing industry, including a national ban on horseracing, transitioning racing facilities to open green spaces, planning for and retraining of workers currently employed in the industry, and the assistance, rehabilitation and rehoming of horses—all funded by an increased betting levy.
However, we also support all reforms that improve welfare for horses while the racing industry continues. As such, we strongly support the bill. We know that the use of whips, spurs and tongue ties and the racing of horses before they are physically mature are particularly cruel. RSPCA Australia, along with countless other animal welfare organisations like the Coalition for the Protection of Racehorses, is opposed to the use of whips, spurs and tongue ties and has called for a prohibition on racing before a horse is mature in line with the asks of this bill. Even for the racing industry, New South Wales is behind the times. Spurs are banned under the International Federation of Horseracing Authorities, whips are banned by other jurisdictions like Norway, and tongue ties are banned in most non-racing equestrian sports internationally.
It is no surprise that the New South Wales thoroughbred racing industry does not support these sensible and measured reforms, however. It will not even enforce the paltry rules that it does have. For example, most breaches of whip use restrictions go unpunished by Racing NSW. Racing Australia's rules of racing allow a racehorse to be whipped up to five times prior to the final 100 metres of the race and with as much frequency as a jockey wishes in the final 100 metres. Take the most celebrated thoroughbred racing event on the calendar in New South Wales as an example. Over 10 per cent of horses raced at Randwick on Everest Day last year were whipped more than five times prior to the final 100 metres of their races and, of the 12 horses made to compete in the Everest race itself, half of them were whipped by their jockeys more than the rules allow.
Despite this, however, only one of those 12 jockeys who could not adhere to these measly whipping rules faced any consequences at all. In contrast, two trainers were fined for taking too long to declare who their horses' jockeys would be. Two out of two instances where the stewards were inconvenienced resulted in fines, while only one out of 12 instances of clear animal abuse resulted in a fine. As a further example, in New South Wales between Everest Day and Melbourne Cup Day, as reported in Racing NSW stewards' reports, 49 race meetings took place across 18 days. At only eight of those meets did breaches of whip use not occur. While 201 breaches of rules occurred across these 49 meets, ten had action taken and 191 had no action taken at all.
The Greens thoroughly welcome the aspects of the bill that seek to prevent the disappearance of former racehorses—including the establishment of a registration scheme for horses owned, bred or kept by horseracing industry participants—that prohibit the slaughtering of racehorses, and that establish a rehoming program. The horseracing industry breeds upwards of 12,000 horses every year, but only around two‑thirds ever make it to training. Thanks to the fearless work of whistleblowers, activists and investigative journalists, it is now no secret that many of the horses that exit the racing industry end up in knackeries or the export meat market. Even more exit the industry in ways we simply cannot track. Exposé after exposé have shown that, even after Racing NSW banned the direct sale of horses from the industry to knackeries, the practice continues unpoliced. Industry self‑regulation on this front has clearly failed.
I commend my Greens colleague in the Federal Senate, Dr Mehreen Faruqi, who has been tireless in her advocacy for a national horse traceability register to ensure that we know what happens to these horses and for whole‑of‑life care for these animals, which earn the racing and gambling industry so many billions in profits. The bill is important for these reasons. But I suspect that, if the views of former Liberal Premiers are any indication, the Government will not support this crucial reform. When asked whether the racing industry has responsibility to look after horses for their lives, the former Premier Barry O'Farrell's extraordinary response was:
I think they have a responsibility up until the time they leave the racing industry. If I sell you my car … it's no longer my responsibility to maintain it: it's yours.
This industry and the politicians that it funds view these living, breathing sentient beings as nothing more than machines and tools to exploit for their benefit. This may be a little radical, but I do not believe that a horse is a car. Even when the industry describes a racehorse collapsing from exhaustion or breaking a leg during a race as "breaking down", I still do not think that its mangled body is quite the same as a crashed rally car. Whipping a horse or stabbing it in its side with a sharp object to make it run faster is animal cruelty, not pushing the accelerator. No matter how the industry tries to hide it, the public is wising up to the inexcusable truth of the racing industry's cruelty. We will see an end to horseracing. In the meantime, The Greens welcome the reforms included in this bill.