On September 12 2020, Racing NSW Chairman Russell Balding announced the regulator’s newly established ‘End of Life Welfare Program’, aimed at providing all NSW thorougbred owners access to a free euthanasia service. The announcement stated that “under no circumstances should a NSW thoroughbred horse ever be sent to an abattoir or knackery” and that the program was primarily required for those who could not afford the expense of euthanasia and burial/cremation.
Whilst CPR welcomes all moves toward ending the brutal killing or horses at knackeries and slaughterhouses, we have many concerns over the viability of the program. Our letter, sent to Mr Balding (below), highlights key points that must be addressed for the program to be a success, not just a smoke screen.
We look forward to his response.
14 September 2020
Racing NSW Chairman
51 Druitt Street
Sydney NSW 2000
By email c/o Kathy Reece: [email protected]
Dear Mr Russell Balding,
We write to you out of genuine concern for the welfare of horses who exit the racing industry in New South Wales. We have made this an open letter and will also be sending it to the media, as communication to RNSW and CEO Mr V’landys in particular seem to have been blocked. Over the last two years, at least eleven emails have been sent to his office from our organisation without any response whatsoever. In the interests of the horses’ welfare and transparency, we hope that will change.
We have read your announcement made on the 12th September 2020 about RNSW’s End Of Life Welfare Program that will fund the euthanasia of NSW racehorses exiting the racing industry and your commitment to finding suitable homes for them.
While your commitment to rehoming sounds like a win for the horses, it does raise many questions about the sustainability of the industry and its ability to care for all the horses it breeds.
We believe it is imperative to reduce the numbers of horses bred each year because the homes to care for them are simply not there.
According to the Australian Racing Fact Book, the number of foals born in NSW has been relatively constant in recent years at around 6000. With the overall number of horses involved in racing and breeding in slight decline, approximately the same number are also exiting the industry every year and requiring re-homing. That represents more than 15 horses every day of the year potentially needing homes just in NSW. This is a significant undertaking requiring significant funding and personnel to make sure all NSW horses receive the care RNSW has promised.
We refer you to our proposal submitted to Racing Australia and all Principle Racing Authorities back in 2013 that details what we estimate will be required and how it could be funded – available here. This has also been detailed in our recent submission to the newly formed Thoroughbred Aftercare Welfare Working Group, with updated figures reflecting the industry today – available here.
We also have some questions we would like you to answer in relation to your announcement.
Will RNSW do anything to discourage over-breeding- the source of the wastage problem?
We note that the foal crop Australia wide is in decline, which would seem to be a positive yet RNSW has an initiative called the Breeder Owner Bonus Scheme (BOBS) that commenced in August 2017 (ref https://www.racingnsw.com.au/wp-content/uploads/RNSW-Strategic-Plan-2018_3_Final.pdf ) designed to encourage breeding and counter the declining numbers of foals born annually.
2. Foals who don’t make it
Can you guarantee that all foals born into the industry will be accounted for?
How will foals who are found to not be suitable for racing be managed and re-homed?
3. Retiring breeding mares (brood mares)
There are an estimated 3000 mares who are retired from breeding in Australia each year who are currently unaccounted for by the racing industry. How will RNSW account for the retiring mares in NSW?
What records will be kept for racehorses leaving the industry and will the records be made public?
5. Criteria for euthanasia
What criteria will be used to assess if a horse will be euthanised?
6. Short-term and long-term care of retiring racehorses
With an estimated 15 horses on average exiting the racing industry every day just in NSW, either as foals, unraced horses, raced horses or breeding horses, what plans does RNSW have for these horses? Additionally, what will happen to the horses who are not re-homed?
7. Plans for finding permanent homes
Thoroughbreds, especially those who have raced, have traditionally been difficult to re-home because of the likelihood of injury and psychological trauma. What plans does RNSW have for rehabilitating these horses so they are able to find suitable homes?
We believe CPR represents the views of the majority of Australians who in principle do not condone animal cruelty. Proof of this gets louder with every Spring Carnival. As such, we would like to maintain open dialogue with the racing industry and in particular RNSW for the purpose of reaching the goals outlined in the announcement.
Campaign Director | Coalition for the Protection of Racehorses
Cover Image: Edgar’s Mission