Landmark thoroughbred welfare report on the right track

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racing horse welfare
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RSPCA Australia has welcomed the release of the report of the Thoroughbred Aftercare Welfare Working Group (TAWWG), hailing it as a significant step forward and urging racing ministers, state and territory 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, 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 on 7.30 in 2019, and called on governments and the industry in their tens of thousands, to take action.

“Unfortunately, the federated structure of racing administration in Australia has meant that, to date, a consistent national response to the issues raised in the program has been lacking.

“However, the TAWWG has taken this initiative, and after a long process and extensive consultation with industry participants, researchers and animal welfare groups, the RSPCA is very pleased to see this report and we support its recommendations.”

Dr Jones said that the report makes 46 recommendations that should all be implemented without delay. One is that the thoroughbred industry take responsibility and take all reasonable steps to ensure its horses have a good life, including after racing.

To make this possible, the report recommends the establishment of an independent national body to drive improved outcomes for thoroughbreds at all stages of their lives—a move that the RSPCA wholeheartedly welcomes.

It also 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,” Dr Jones said.

“The recommendations in this report have support from across the industry and from the RSPCA. The next step is for the recommendations to be adopted as soon as possible.”

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