Horses are routinely subjected to the use of painful devices in both training and racing with little understanding of their impact on horses and whether they’re actually effective.
Of most concern is the routine use of whips in training and racing.
Whips are unacceptable. Whips have the potential to cause localised trauma and tissue damage to horses. What’s more, the last 100 metres of a race - when horses can be whipped an unlimited number of times - is exactly the time when horses are more fatigued and have less capacity to respond.
Whips are unpopular. An independent poll commissioned by the RSPCA in Victoria found 69% of Victorians feel that horses should not be whipped in the normal course of a race, and 71% of Victorians who attend or bet on horse races would be undeterred if whips were banned and would continue to participate in horse racing events and activities.
This is consistent with the findings of previous independent national polling commissioned by the RSPCA in 2017.
Whips are unnecessary. Whips have long been defended by the racing industry as a way to make racing fairer and safer. But we now know that that’s not true. A recent study compared 126 “whipping-permitted” and “whipping-free” races in the UK and found no difference in movement on course, interference on course, incidents related to jockey behaviour, or race finishing times.
Whips don’t make races faster, fairer or safer.
What are the other issues with horse racing?
Many Australians also don’t know about the use of ‘tongue-ties’ – a tight strap that ties a horse’s tongue to their jaw in an attempt to prevent them ‘choking’ or avoiding the bit when it cause discomfort. Tongue ties are uncomfortable and distressing to the horse, are used without any requirement for veterinary diagnosis, and there’s little or no evidence that their use is effective or beneficial.
There is a desperate need to address oversupply issues in the racing industry including by reducing the number of racehorses bred, minimising the risk of injury and for every horse to be provided with a suitable alternative role on retirement. Tens of thousands of Australians rightly expressed their horror at the fate of ex-racing and harness racing horses after a shocking exposé on ABC’s 7.30 in 2019.
The Australian racing industry should provide accurate information about the experience of every racehorse it produces, from birth to death, which is why the RSPCA 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.
What needs to change
The RSPCA has serious concerns about animal welfare in horse racing.
First and foremost, there’s no reason for whips in racing. The RSPCA is calling for a phase-out of whips in racing.
In the meantime, we also encourage progress toward ending the use of whips, including the introduction of whip-free racing trials. We congratulate Racing Victoria for taking a leadership role in calling for a reduction in the use of whips to between five and eight occasions per race, instead of the current unlimited number of times in the last 100 metres.
The RSPCA advocates for the racing industry to adopt responsible breeding practices including reducing the number of racehorses bred, minimising the risk of injury and for every horse to be provided with a suitable alternative role on retirement, including provisions being made to ensure their welfare.
30th October 2020
“Unpopular and unnecessary”: studies show no reason for whips in racing RSPCA Blog
23rd October 2020
Working towards whip-free horse racing RSPCA Media Release
8th September 2020
Proposed whip reform in Australian thoroughbred racing RSPCA Media Release
18th October 2019
RSPCA joins calls for long-overdue action on racehorse welfare
What is the RSPCA’s view on whips in Thoroughbred racing? RSPCA Knowledgebase
Do padded whips cause pain to horses? RSPCA Knowledgebase
What are the animal welfare issues with Thoroughbred horse racing? The Conversation
30th October 2020
Research shows whipping horses doesn’t make them run faster, straighter or safer — let’s cut it out ABC 7:30
17th October 2019
The Final Race ABC Catalyst
24th March 2015