The killing of unwanted racehorses in Australian knackeries and slaughterhouses has now become common knowledge, largely due to the work of brave activists and journalists. However, it is not often, actually it’s unheard of, that industry representatives themselves will admit it takes place, even though they are now scrambling to put measures in place to at least seem to be addressing the issue.
Last week, Tasmania’s General Manager of the Office of Racing Integrity and Director of Racing John King, admitted on ABC Morning Radio that a “significant” number of two, three and four year old racehorses are shot in the head due to simply not being fast enough – referring to the issue as “an unfortunate truth”. Listen to the full interview here.
Could it be that some in the racing industry are finally recognising that blatantly lying about the issue of ‘wastage’ is no longer an option, now that the average person is well aware of what really goes on? As devastating as the truth is, honesty regarding this is a refreshing change.
However, when pressed for details on how large this issue is, Mr King claimed 59 thoroughbreds were killed last year due to “illness and injury”. Is he suddenly trying to make out those who were killed were actually killed on compassionate grounds, in total contradiction to the admission he made just moments earlier? Or, were 59 thoroughbreds indeed killed due to illness and injury, and he is overlooking all the other horses who vanish from Tasmanian Racing each year?
A quick number crunch from the Racing Australia Fact Book stats shows that over the past seven years, on average, 299 horses have vanished from Tasmania’s thoroughbred racing industry every year (or 30.5% of their registered to race horses) – see table 1 below, baring in mind Tasmanian Thoroughbred Racing is one of the smallest of the states and territories.
Mr King himself acknowledged that rehoming racehorses is no easy task stating “the physical realities of rehoming become more difficult with horses to greyhounds” and that although they are working towards a system that encourages participants to make “all reasonable efforts” to rehome the horses they breed into the world, there was no racing or legal requirement for them to do so.
The true numbers of racehorses vanishing from Tasmania Racing every year being overlooked is one issue, but the claim made by Mr King also raises another important question. If 59 Tasmanian thoroughbreds were actually killed due to injury and illness last year, and not simply because they were not fast enough, it is safe to assume the majority of those injuries were caused by racing and/or training. However, as our Deathwatch Report demonstrates, not one horse was recorded as killed on a Tasmanian racetrack from injuries sustained from racing over the past racing year. The racing year prior, only one horse was recorded as killed on track in the Tasmanian stewards’ reports. This reaffirms our assertion that injured horses are being removed from the racetrack and killed behind the scenes, therefore avoiding being recorded as a Deathwatch statistic. Whether intentional or not, we cannot say. What we can say is, as we have long claimed, our findings and commonly cited statistics that one horse is killed from racing related injuries every three days is grossly understated. Our short video demonstrating how easy it is for the industry to cover up deaths from injuries in racing can be viewed here.