Landmark thoroughbred welfare report on the right track

The report contains strong, positive and practical recommendations for improving the welfare of thoroughbreds. 260016_01 Picture: UNSPLASHED

RSPCA Australia has welcomed the release of the report of the Thoroughbred Aftercare Welfare Working Group (TAWWG) today, hailing it as a significant step forward and urging ministers, racing authorities and the broader thoroughbred industry to adopt its recommendations.

The TAWWG was established in February 2020 following revelations aired on the ABC’s 7.30 in October 2019 about the fate of ex-racing horses in abattoirs and knackeries.

RSPCA Australia Chief Scientist, Dr Bidda Jones AM, who is a member of the group, said the report was a long time coming but contains strong, positive and practical recommendations for improving the welfare of thoroughbreds.

“The Australian community knows and understands that horses in the racing industries are more than just commodities – they are sentient animals who deserve to be treated well throughout their entire life,” Dr Jones said.

“That’s why Australians were quite rightly appalled after the revelations aired in 2019, and called on governments and the industry in their tens of thousands, to take action.

The federated structure of racing administration in Australia has meant that a national response to the issues raised in the program has been difficult to implement

But the RSPCA was very pleased to see this report and supports its recommendations according to Dr Jones.

The report makes 46 recommendations that should all be implemented without delay, Dr Jones said, including the establishment of an independent national body to drive improved outcomes for thoroughbreds at all stages of their lives.

“The report recommends that the thoroughbred industry take responsibility and take all reasonable steps to ensure its horses have a good life, including after racing.

“It recommends significant reforms to standards – including enforceable national standards for thoroughbred horses while in racing and breeding – and recommends governments develop national standards for all horses, not just thoroughbreds. While other species (like cattle and sheep) have enforceable national welfare standards, horses do not.

“Crucially, we’re also pleased to see a recommendation for a national traceability register for all horses, which identifies each horse individually along with their locations and owners. Such a register is key to having an effective welfare regime.”

Jones said that the report’s recommendations have support from across the industry and from the RSPCA, and should be adopted as soon as possible by the relevant authorities.

“It’s the horses who are the most important participants in a race. That’s why safeguarding their welfare throughout their entire lives is crucial, and why we’re pleased to see this significant step today towards making that happen.”