With support from the Coalition for the Protection of Racehorses (CPR), People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) have filed a case that will challenge the legitimacy of whips in horse racing. Court documents were filed on Friday 8th October in the Magistrate’s Court in Hobart.
PETA Australia and the Coalition for the Protection of Racehorses (CPR) met with the animal welfare manager for Tasracing, Tasmania’s racing authority, several years ago, to express concern over the use of whips, point out that whipping violates the state’s anti-cruelty statute, and offer support to help implement changes.
Both groups then co-signed a letter with animal protection groups World Animal Protection and Animal Liberation, to Tasracing, requesting a meeting to discuss the issues and see if there was a way forward. In the subsequent meeting with PETA Australia’s lawyer and Tasracing CEO Paul Eriksson, Eriksson refused to engage further and informed PETA Australia that Tasracing had no plans to explore banning or restricting whips.
Because of the unusual status of the racing rules under the Tasmanian Animal Welfare Act 1993 and most other state’s animal protection Acts, whipping horses during racing has long been given an unofficial free pass. The court case will challenge this anomaly that means horses are whipped on racetracks despite it being a clear breach of animal welfare laws.
If you did exactly the same thing to any other animal, you would be charged with animal cruelty. This case highlights whipping a horse is a crime both on and off the racetrack.
The purpose of the whip is to keep a horse running when they are really wanting to slow down because of fatigue. This is when horses are running out of fear and on adrenalin, in circumstances that can lead to serious injury or even catastrophic breakdown.
The racing industry for years has claimed that the whip doesn’t hurt. If it doesn’t hurt and cause fear and distress, it begs the question, why use it?
A peer-reviewed study published on November 11, 2020 found ‘Humans and horses have the equivalent basic anatomic structures to detect pain in the skin’ (available here), something the racing industry continues to deny.
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”.
CPR has put the challenge to any jockey to be whipped like a racehorse and then maintain the whip doesn’t hurt.
If it‘s not already abundantly obvious that whips hurt and cause unnecessary pain and suffering, then there is a mountain of evidence that confirms this.
This case is asking a magistrate to confirm that whipping racehorses causes unreasonable and unjustifiable pain. If such a conviction is handed down, it will be even more ludicrous for the industry to continue to deny this.
Beating horses with a whip is just the tip of the iceberg in this cruel and ruthless industry. Successful convictions will have serious ramifications not only for horse racing in Australia, but the entire world.