The Australian racing industry will tell you they treat their horses like royalty. And a select few higher-profile winners will go on to enjoy a comfortable pampered retirement.
Sadly, that’s not the case for the vast majority of Thoroughbred and Standardbred racing horses.
Despite being bred and trained specifically to race, most racehorses have a very short career – often only 2 to 3 years in length. Horses may be retired or rejected from the racing industry due to poor performance, illness, injury or behavioural problems.
The fate of these thousands of horses no longer wanted by the racing industry – or what the industry calls ‘wastage’ – is a serious animal welfare concern.
Exactly how many horses, and what happens to them, is largely unknown as accurate verifiable data is not available.
While many healthy retired horses will be sold directly for breeding, recreational riding or other equestrian sports, others will have an unknown fate, sent to horse sales, only to end up at a knackery or abattoirs in Australia to be slaughtered.
Importantly, the industry does not hold accurate records on the fate of horses after they leave racing – which is worrying, as the average lifespan for a horse is more than 20 years.
What needs to change
The RSPCA has serious concerns about animal welfare in horse racing.
The Australian racing industry must be compelled to provide accurate information about the experience of every racehorse it produces, from birth to death.
Right now, we’re asking for urgent action by the racing industry to reduce the number of horses being bred, change training and racing practices to minimise the risk of injury, and to put better plans in place for the retirement of every horse bred, to assure their welfare.
The RSPCA also supports calls for the compulsory collection and publishing of comprehensive life cycle and injury statistics, and the development of a national identification and traceability system for racehorses.
It’s an inevitable reality of racing that some race horses will ultimately be sent for slaughter; however, the industry must acknowledge this is happening, minimise the numbers, and put proper standards in place.
18th October 2019
RSPCA joins calls for long-overdue action on racehorse welfare ABC 7:30
17th October 2019
The Final Race The Guardian
6th June 2019
Winx's brother among Australian racehorses killed for meat in South Korea RSPCA Media Release
8th November 2018
Melbourne Cup Steward’s Report offers eye-opening account of what really happens on race day RSPCA Media Release
6th November 2018
RSPCA statement on death of The Cliffsofmoher in the 2018 Melbourne Cup
What is the RSPCA’s view on whips in Thoroughbred racing? RSPCA Knowledgebase
Read more about the RSPCA’s concerns with horse racing RSPCA Knowledgebase
Read more about the RSPCA’s concerns with greyhound racing RSPCA Study
Does whipping a horse actually affect the outcome of the race?