The use of whips as a performance aid in horse racing is back in the spotlight following the release of a study which analysed race footage provided by the RSPCA and found evidence of the unacceptable use of whips and the inability of stewards to adequately police Australian whip rules.
Conducted by Veterinarian and Professor Paul McGreevy at the University of Sydney, the study reignites calls for the racing industry to review the use of whips in racing.
This study also builds on a previous study released in 2011 which found that whipping a horse does not increase the chance of a horse finishing first, second or third and that 98% of horses were being whipped without it influencing the race outcome.
The latest study revealed:
- An unacceptable number of apparent breaches of whip rules
- So-called padding of a whip is not effective in safeguarding horses from possible pain.
- The study found that 75% of whip strikes are on the abdomen (flank). The International Agreement on Breeding and Racing to which the Australian Racing Board is a signatory lists specific prohibitions for whip use, including using the whip on the flank.
- The results of the latest study indicate that Australian racing authorities are not meeting their obligations regarding this International Agreement.
- The so-called padded whip introduced by the Australian Racing Board, has failed to protect horses. Analysis in this study found that the unpadded section of the whip made contact on 64% of impacts, demonstrating that padding the whip does not necessarily safeguard a horse from possible pain. See www.rspca.org.au/whips to join the campaign.
The NSW Greens have joined the RSPCA in calling for the Australian Racing Board to review the use of whips in racing. I have tabled the following Motion in Parliament calling on the Australian Racing Board and NSW Racing to prohibit whip use. It is important to remove this animal cruelty concern from the sport. Horses and punters will still win races and bets when the sport is whip free.
Legislative Council Notice Paper No. 73—Thursday 29 March 2012
621. Ms Faehrmann to move—
1. That this House notes that:
(a) the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) has launched a
campaign to end whips in horse racing,
(b) Professor Paul McGreevy, a veterinary scientist, and his colleagues from Sydney
University Veterinary Science and Law faculties have undertaken a study into the use of
whips in thoroughbred racing,
(c) the study viewed opportunistic high-speed footage of 15 race finishes frame by frame
over two days at the Gosford Racing Track north of Sydney,
(d) the study observed at least 28 examples in nine horses of breaches of the Australian
Rules of Racing whip rules, including 13 contacts with the head, one seam of the flap
contact with the horse and 14 arm actions that rose above the height of the shoulder,
(e) the breaches detected were not reported by the Racing NSW Stewards,
(f) the study observed that the whip caused visible indents on 83 per cent of impacts
(g) the study observed that 75 per cent of whip strikes are on the abdomen,
(h) the study observed that the unpadded section of the whip made contact on 64 per cent of
impacts recorded which calls into question the adequacy of whip padding to prevent
(i) the RSPCA says the study shows evidence that the International Agreement on Breeding,
Racing and Wagering, to which Australia is a signatory, has clearly been contravened,
(j) Professor McGreevy commented to the ABC Lateline program in a story that aired on 20
March 2012 that if the whipping was ocurring to animals off the race track it would be
considered a prosecutable offence and an act of animal cruelty,
(k) horses and punters would still win races and bets if the horses were not subject to
(l) Norway prohibited whips in horse racing in 1982.
2. That this House calls on the Australian Racing Board and Racing NSW to prohibit whips in
(Notice given 28 March 2012—expires Notice Paper No. 92)