It took a scientific study to prove an obvious fact that the racing industry has always denied. There is now scientific evidence that whips cause horses pain – available here.
The landmark paper, published yesterday found “Humans and horses have the equivalent basic anatomic structures to detect pain in the skin.”
The report’s author, Professor Paul McGreevy, stated “We’re saying that although horse skin is thicker overall than human skin, the part of the skin that is thicker does not insulate horses from pain that is generated during a whip strike”. Read the full ABC article on the report here.
In response, The Conversation has published an article outlining a compelling 10 Reasons To Stop Whipping Racehorses.
In 2015, whilst denying whips hurt horses, former Racing Australia CEO Peter McGauran stated that the Australian Racing Board would consider abolishing the whip if science proved it hurt horses. The word ‘consider’ is telling as to whether the industry actually cares if horses suffer pain or not, but in any case, will the ARB now acknowledge the scientific evidence and support an immediate phase out of whips?
Perhaps the most devastating section of the study is the following:
“The role of pain in horse sports is part of the growing debate about what constitutes ethical equitation. In a flight animal, such as the horse, being unable to resolve aversive cutaneous stimulation causes distress. Horses have evolved to run away from such stimuli since the most likely natural cause of such stimulation is contact from a predator. Repeated strikes of the whip in horses that are fatigued as they end a race are likely to be distressing and cause suffering. The horses’ loss of agency is described in the literature as helplessness and repeated, inescapable, treatment of this sort is thought to lead to learned helplessness.”
Beating horses with a whip is just the tip of the iceberg in this cruel and ruthless industry. So long as horse racing persists, banning the whip is the absolute least they can do.