Will racing listen?
In mid-2020, CPR reviewed the Australian Veterinary Association (AVA) policies on the welfare of horses used in racing. We were quick to express our disappointment at the position taken by the AVA in regard to many standard industry practices and towards horse racing in general. We requested a meeting with their policy council to discuss ways in which the AVA policies could be brought into line with current animal welfare science and community expectations.
Our request was denied, however, we were encouraged to make a submission. Whist we have serious concerns with many of the AVA’s policies, we decided to focus our submission (available here) on proposing they update their policy titled ‘Use of whips on horses at competitive events’.
Within we refer to several peer-reviewed studies and our own research which demonstrates whips harm horses, that they do not aid in improved ‘performance’, nor do they improve jockey safety.
We requested “the AVA review their current policy and deem the use of whips on horses in racing as unacceptable” and in conclusion stated “CPR is of the position that so long as horse racing persists, horses should be able to run without fear inducing and pain inflicting implements, allowing them to slow down if they need to. That means ending the use of whips, spurs, tongue ties and cruel bits- all designed to make the horses comply through learned helplessness techniques.”
At the time, the AVA policy on the use of whips in racing stated that further research needed to be done to address inconsistencies as to whether whip use aids in horse performance and jockey control. It also acknowledged that whips act as negative reinforcement and therefore their use should be limited.
Over two years later, we are happy to finally report the AVA has now updated this policy to recommend the racing industry ban the use of whips for ‘encouragement’. Read the new policy in full here.
Most notably, new recommendations 1, 4 and 5 state:
1. Currently, racing codes mandate their definition of correct whip use and associated penalties for misuse, based on the activities of the horse and likely proximity to other horses and people. Racing codes must work towards a framework where whip use for encouragement is not condoned (International Society for Equitation Science. 2018).
4. Other factors in each equestrian code that could be modified to improve rider and horse welfare and safety should also continue to be investigated. A broader understanding of the numerous factors that can affect horse behaviour can lead to further improvements that may reduce the perceived need for whip carriage.
5. Racing and equestrian industries should undertake education of their participants into effective training methods that minimise the use of training aids that intentionally cause discomfort, pain or fear to promote behavioural change.
Will the racing industry finally take action and listen to the advice of the AVA, or will they continue to allow brutal public beatings of horses in the name of gambling profits and entertainment.
Help to #ditchthewhip by demanding Racing NSW and Peter V’landys stop blocking a ban here.
Coverage on the updated policy by The Guardian here.