Five ways to make horse racing more humane right now (part 1)

Animal welfare will be in the spotlight on Melbourne Cup day after footage from a Queensland abattoir showed ex-racehorses allegedly being mistreated and slaughtered.

Here are five changes that animal welfare organizations say could be instituted immediately to make racing more humane.

1. Ban the whips

Under Racing Australia’s rules, a jockey can only use their padded whip on the horse five times before the final 100-meters of the race, after which there are no restrictions on the number of hits.

Both the RSPCA and the Coalition for the Protection of Racehorses say the whip could be banned immediately without detrimentally affecting the sport, and they have found an unlikely ally in recent weeks in the leading thoroughbred owner Lloyd Williams.

“The industry now needs to realize whips need to be withdrawn very soon,” the six-time owner of a Melbourne Cup winner told the ABC’s 7.30 program, which showed the alleged mistreatment of racehorses in abattoirs.

The Australian Jockey Club, which has long maintained that the whip is an issue of safety because it can be used to help “guide the animal,” told Nine newspapers it would not support a ban.

Norway banned the use of whips in 1982, except in two-year-old races where they are carried but cannot be used to make the horse go faster.

2. Fully ban jumps racing

Jumps races, such as the Grand National, are banned in New South Wales and Tasmania but still conducted in Victoria and South Australia.

A 2006 study by the University of Melbourne found that the risk of a horse dying in a jumps race was 18.9 times that of a flat race. According to the RSPCA, at least 49 horses have died as a result of participating in jumps racing in the past 10 years.

As well as the risk of falls, the distances are also usually longer than those favored in flat racing, with horses asked to jump hurdles of at least one meter over a course of at least 2.8km, compared to distances of 800m to 3.2km in flat racing. This increases the likelihood of exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhage or bleeding on the lungs.

Bleeding on the lungs is common in high-intensity equestrian sports such as polo and cross-country. According to various studies, it is found between 68% and 90% of racehorses.