Friday 13th March 2020, the day of the last Echuca horse sale. A day that was lucky for the horses that found good, private homes and unlucky for the unwanted and unloved that went to the meat men and dubious dealers. A day, thanks to COVID, that spelt the end of a sale that had resulted in misery, and often death, for so many horses.
Andrew Wilson & Co subsequently announced that all future sales would be online. It was later also stated that no meat buyers were allowed to bid and, regardless of that, it would be unviable for them to buy, seeing the horses were spread all over Australia. We had hope that not only Thoroughbreds, but all horses had a better chance of finding good, private homes.
For the past few months, we have been documenting the Thoroughbreds that are entered in the online sale (there will be more on that at a later date) and something became apparent, the same bidders were bidding on horses sale after sale, regardless of the horses’ location. We began documenting ALL the horses and have the proof that there are bidders who have bid on horses in multiple states, all in the same sale. This leads us to pose two questions:
are these bidders dummy – bidders who are used to jack up the prices;
is the argument that it’s not worth travelling around not valid?
Either way, this leads to other questions. Is it ethical to allow dummy bidding (if that is the case)?
Is it ethical to have what appears to be multiple dealers bidding/buying at the sale without the public being aware? How can it be guaranteed that meat buyers are not bidding, either directly or through a third party? Simple – it can’t be guaranteed, especially seeing that the argument of “it’s not worthwhile to travel around” seems null and void. One bidder in the sale ending on Friday 15th July 2022, bid on well over 20 lots ranging from Thoroughbreds to Brumbies – horses that were spread across VIC, NSW and QLD. In the sale prior they did the same – bid on 20+ lots across 3 states. Another bidder also bid on 20+ lots in the last sale, horses ranging from Thoroughbreds to Clydesdales that were across VIC, NSW and one in SA. In the sale prior they bid on 20+ lots, this time spread over VIC, NSW, SA and QLD. We could go on and on but suffice to say, the above-mentioned bidders are not alone. There are many more at every sale that bid on any breed and across multiple states, too many to list here.
The racing industry has no regulations regarding the treatment, use and sale of horses once they are officially ‘retired’ from racing – excluding Racing NSW, who among other rules, have a list of four approved horse sales, that NSW thoroughbreds can be sold through. This is supposedly to ensure they are not purchased by dealers and meat buyers. The Andrew Wilson & Co online sale is one of them.
We give full credit to the Facebook group “Promoting Equines on Andrew Wilson & Co Online”. We are aware that they go to great lengths to promote the horses listed for sale in the hope they find good homes. It was because of this group that we became aware of two unreserved Standardbreds being sold together. It was stated the elderly vendor apparently had no idea that they could be sold to dealers or maybe even meat buyers and were distraught once they realised that could be the fate of their beloved horses. The group is obviously also aware that dealers bid. It was only because they announced that dealers possibly had the two highest bids (at that time) that there was a public outcry and the horses fortunately ended up with a private buyer. These horses were lucky. What about all the others, especially those that have sold with low or no reserves?
These sales should not exist at all, but so long as they do, they must demonstrate transparency and set minimum reserves on all horses that will keep them out of the hands of both meat buyers, other horse dealers and those who cannot afford to provide for their basic needs. They should also allow for the option of the original seller to be contacted shall the buyer find themselves in hardship and unable to care for the horses down the track.
Sellers need to be aware that dealers, or possibly worse, bid and buy horses at this sale. Sellers also need to be aware that whilst selling their horse to a stranger may eventuate in a good outcome, it also places their horse at risk of abuse and neglect or a premature and terrifying death.
- Reach out to everyone you know for help
- Arrange for temporary agistment (if finances allow)
- Reach out to a respected sanctuary and make a donation that will help toward covering the cost of your horse’s care and then work with them to help find your horse a good home.
- Create a crowdfund to help raise money towards the above expenses if needed.
- If the horse was once registered for racing, contact the relevant racing authority and breeder and demand they support you in finding the horse a good home. You should also demand the ability to remain informed on the horse’s future throughout their lifecycle. The reality is the racing authorities (by choice) do not currently have a system to guarantee you this, but your demand will place pressure on them to start taking lifetime responsibility for the horses they depend on for their existence. Do not leave your horse in their hands without this guarantee – they are not safe. If the authorities refuse, cause a stir, report it on your socials and inform the media.
- In all scenario’s, ensure rehoming comes with a contract stating the horse cannot be on sold/rehomed without you being contacted first and given the option to take them back into your care
- If all avenues are exhausted and there is no possibility that you can continue to care for your horse, rehome them, or sell them privately to somewhere you have investigated, so you make the decision to send your horses to a sale, PLEASE, set a reserve price that will ensure they will not be purchased by meat buyers or other horse dealers and bear in mind, this could still be their fate in the future.
Ultimately, until we collectively recognise and respect horses as individuals in their own right, not commodities to be bought and sold for profits, they will remain at greater risk of abuse, neglect and premature death.
A robust National Horse Traceability Register will create the foundations of a system where horses can be protected from horrid poor welfare outcomes and slaughter.
HOW YOU CAN HELP!
1. Sign our petition directed at key personnel within government, the working group and horse industries here.
2. You can personalise the petition letter or send your own letter directly, expressing your frustration at this situation and your support for a robust register that will achieve what was initially intended – addresses here.
3. Share this post
Pictured: Katie and Phoenix – once used in harness racing, safely rehomed by public efforts and featured on Equine Voice Australia