Racehorse welfare – what’s happened since ‘The Final Race’ was aired on the ABC?
In October 2019, ABC 7.30’s ‘The Final Race’ brought unprecedented attention to the fates of Australian racing horses when the industry no longer requires them.
You can revisit the original story here. But be warned: the images and video are distressing.
The story was what shocked the nation. You are welcome to join tens and thousands of Australians who have taken action against this issue.
Here’s an update on what has happened since.
Queensland Abattoir: Charges and guilty pleas
You may remember that the most disturbing images and information (***warning – linked story contains distressing images and information ***) were shown in the story.
Three men have pleaded guilty to animal cruelty charges relating to an abattoir in Queensland after Biosecurity Queensland filed charges.
The three received fines totaling thousands of dollars, but the community felt that this wasn’t enough to compensate for the pain they caused.
RSPCA invites national horse groups to discuss issues
The RSPCA called for a solution that is national to the problem after the 7.30 show.
In November 2019, we brought progressive industry leaders and thought leaders from seven national peak equestrian organizations from across the country.
We met to discuss all the welfare concerns identified and to see how we could all work together to improve the outcome for horses retiring from racing.
The group has already met twice, most recently this week. We are focused on the changes that need to be made and making them happen.
A new working group on racing welfare has been established; the Thoroughbred Breeders Association also formed a working group in response to the ABC 7.30 show.
The group’s goal is to improve animal care in the Australian thoroughbred racing industry. This will be achieved by reviewing current practices, comparing them to best practices around the world, consulting industry participants, and learning other animal industries.
Dr Bidda is the RSPCA’s representative on the panel, and we have made our detailed submission.
We look forward to the report of the panel, which will include practical and policy suggestions to address the issues identified in the industry.
Government Action in Queensland and Victoria
In response to the ABC 7.30 Program, the Queensland Government conducted an independent inquiry on the management of retired racing horses, including the regulatory arrangements and oversight for abattoirs, knackeries, and the transportation of horses into these facilities.
The government has accepted and is implementing all of the recommendations in that report. This includes the announcement made just this week that the use of electric prodders on horses will be prohibited. That was one recommendation from the inquiry.
The response to 7.30 has accelerated three national processes.
The development of Australian Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines for Livestock in Processing Establishments, a review of whether the Australian Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines for Land Transport of Livestock are suitable for horses, and the development of a proposed national horse trackability register are all part of this project.
Update on the retirement plans of some horses
Finally, due to the ABC 7.30 show, racetracks around the country have increased their retirement programs for horses who are leaving the industry.
This helps a lot of horses.
This is not enough. A major and widespread overhaul of the racing industry will be needed to provide every horse with an alternative role upon retirement.
As with much of our other work, realizing a lasting and positive change in racing horses takes time. Our work continues after the TV program has ended.