Why Won't the Government Crack Down on Whip Breaches?

Today Abigail raised the issue of outstanding whip breaches from the Everest horserace, urging the Government to enforce our existing animal welfare standards. 

Abigail said:

Last month The Everest horserace, New South Wales' answer to the Melbourne Cup, tastelessly billed as the "world's richest race on turf", was held at Royal Randwick Racecourse. During the course of the day, four horses performed so poorly that concerns were raised by stewards as to the wellbeing of the horses, and it was declared necessary for their trainers to report back on how the horse recovered from the race. Two horses were declared lame, meaning they were experiencing enough pain to visibly alter their gait. One horse did not properly recover from post‑race fatigue and was making abnormal noises while breathing. Two horses experienced bleeding from both nostrils, which is caused by exercise‑induced pulmonary haemorrhage, a condition where blood vessels rupture due to strenuous exercise and bleed into the lungs and airways. Twelve horses were whipped more than that allowed under the Australian Rules of Racing.

Racing Australia's Australian Rules of Racing allow a racing horse to be whipped up to five times prior to the final 100 metres of the race and with as much frequency as the jockey wishes in the final 100 metres of the race. Over 10 per cent of horses raced at Randwick on The Everest day were whipped more than five times prior to the final 100 metres of their races. Of the 12 horses made to compete in The Everest race itself, half were whipped by their jockeys more than the rules allow. Despite this, however, only one of the 12 jockeys that could not adhere to those measly whipping rules faced any consequences at all. In contrast, two trainers were fined for taking too long to declare who their jockey would be. Two of two instances where the stewards were inconvenienced resulted in fines, while only one of 12 instances of clear animal abuse resulted in a fine. Meanwhile, the owners, trainers and jockeys made $18,455,200 in prize money from the "richest race on turf" and the nine other races at Randwick on the same day. The single fine issued for whipping constituted only 1.4 per cent of the prize money won by the abused horse's owner, trainer and jockey. In the horseracing industry animal cruelty literally pays.

Since I gave notice of this motion following The Everest in October, Randwick racecourse also hosted the Bentley Cup, which takes place on Melbourne Cup day and is designed to allow the racing and gambling industries in New South Wales to capitalise on Melbourne Cup mania. I make particular note of this because one horse raced on that day was killed after a fracture during the race. The average lifespan of a horse is between 25 and 30 years, but The Grinder was only five years old when he was killed. In the last racing year 149 horses were killed on racetracks across the country, 63 of which died in New South Wales. With one racehorse dying on a racetrack every 2½ days, The Grinder will no doubt be one of over 100 killed again this year.

It is no secret that The Greens abhor horseracing. It is commodified animal cruelty, earning the gambling industry billions of dollars from the literal blood of sentient beings bred, raised and killed for our entertainment. The Greens would like to see the industry shut down for good, but that is not what this motion is about. It is also no secret that The Greens oppose the continued use of whips in the racing industry and would like to see them banned altogether. But, again, this motion does not ask for a ban on whip use by the horseracing industry. Today I ask the Government to do the bare minimum. During budget estimates I asked the Minister responsible for racing, Kevin Anderson, what he thought of the fact that only one of the 12 jockeys who broke the Australian Rules of Racing on the day of The Everest faced any disciplinary action. He told me:

The current rules of racing and the codes of conduct I believe are appropriate ...

The Minister also told me that if codes are breached, then the penalties will apply. This motion calls on the Government to take action to ensure that the restrictions on the use of whips included in the racing rules are enforced, which means ensuring that penalties are actually applied when the rules are breached. How can the Government claim that it or the racing industry prioritises animal welfare when it will not ensure that the paltry welfare standards are even enforced? The least it can do is take responsibility for the cruelty it has endorsed by allowing the racing industry to continue. I commend the motion to the House.

 

After a lengthy debate in which the LNP Government and the Labor Party both shut down Abigail's main points to applaud the cruelty that is horseracing, Abigail said: 

I thank Racing NSW—sorry, I mean I thank Labor for its amendments. In relation to paragraphs (1) and (2) of the amendment of the Hon. Courtney Houssos, The Greens do not believe that any amount of money is worth a life, and that may be a controversial position in this Chamber. If the horseracing industry contributes $3 billion to our economy then that would still be $3 billion that we could do without. I also note that New South Wales loses around $1 billion on racing gambling each year, and lining the pockets of gambling executives with betting revenue is not quite the same as putting food on the table for workers.

 

The full debate can be found in Hansard here.

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