Animal Aid

The BHA says that the whipping of race horses must go on

Posted 27 September 2011

Animal Aid’s Response to the BHA’s Review of the Whip

The British Horse Racing Authority’s long-awaited findings on its review of the whip are published today. The BHA was forced into the exercise because the whip’s continued use is increasingly controversial even within racing circles. The BHA has not only failed race horses by sanctioning the continued use of this brutal device, its decision also seriously damages the reputation of the industry. Even the opinion poll commissioned by the BHA and published in its new report shows that 57 per cent of the public (68 per cent of women) want an outright whip ban.

The sight of the 2011 Grand National winner Ballabriggs being thrashed in the final stages of a race that left him exhausted and in need of oxygen outraged a great many people. It was a signal moment that should have marked the beginning of the end of the use of the whip in racing. No other animal is allowed to be whipped for sport in the way that a thoroughbred race horse is.

The BHA’s own figures show that there are nearly 900 breaches of its whip regulations every year, with about a dozen jockeys committing more than 10 offences in each 12 month period (http://www.animalaid.org.uk/h/n/NEWS/news_horse/ALL/2431//). Clearly, the current sanctions fail to deter jockeys from repeatedly abusing their mounts.

The proposed changes increase the penalties but they provide no genuine deterrence. Under the proposals, a jockey who wins a race might lose his or her winnings but the horse is still ruled to have come first, with all the consequent rewards for the owner and trainer. A jockey who wins for his owner but is penalised might well find he receives his reward through a more surreptitious route.

Breaches of the BHA whip regulations could be ended at a stroke if owners and trainers demanded that jockeys who ride their horses adhere to the rules. But the representative bodies of these two key elements within racing have failed to speak out against abuse of their horses. They clearly feel that an advantage, in terms of money and prestige, is to be gained from their animals being violently coerced during the course of a race. This is despite the fact that there is good evidence indicating that use of the whip does not improve a jockey’s chances of winning (http://www.animalaid.org.uk/h/n/NEWS/news_horse/ALL/2418//).

The BHA has missed a perfect opportunity to demonstrate that horse welfare is amongst its concerns. Instead, it has shown once again that horse welfare counts for just about zero in an industry driven by greed and vanity. Race horses will get a degree of protection only when the responsibility for their welfare is removed from the BHA - a body that is answerable to no-one except powerful figures within the industry.

Animal Aid will continue to press for the BHA to be stripped of its regulatory function with regard to horse welfare. We will also continue mobilising public support for a total ban on the use of the whip in racing.

Notes to Editors:

  • For more information or to arrange an interview, contact Andrew Tyler or Dene Stansall on 01732 364546 (out of hours 07918 083 774).
  • We have an ISDN line for broadcast-quality interviews.

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