Must we whip racehorses?

Three out of every four Australians are opposed to whips in racing, while nine out of 10 punters will still watch and bet on racing if horses are not hit with the whip.

Those are the recent findings of independent research commissioned by RSPCA Australia.

The research, conducted online in late March, debunks any suggestion that ‘riding out’ horses to the satisfaction of punters means hitting them with a whip, said RSPCA Australia CEO Heather Neil.

“This research confirms what we already suspected—that racing fans do not want to see horses hit with the whip,” Neil said.

“Of those who watch or bet on horseracing between once a week and once or twice a year, 87 per cent say they would continue to do so if rules did not allow horses to be whipped.

“Even serious race-going punters will continue to support racing if we spare the horses from the whip.”

The research also found 74 per cent of the general public do not want to see whips used in racing, suggesting that recent rule changes to allow jockeys more discretion in whip use has done little to quell the community’s concerns about this practice.

“As Harness Racing Australia recognised, when they made the momentous decision to end whip-use in racing from 1 September 2017, racing should celebrate good horsemanship, good breeding and good training—whips shouldn’t come into it,” Neil said.

“While we have no issues with jockeys carrying a safety device, it’s well and truly time for the thoroughbred racing industry to recognise that that ending routine whip use is good for horses, isn’t a concern for punters, and will meet the wider community’s expectations.”

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