Ban the whip or ban jockeys who flout the rules, demands Animal Aid

Posted on the 14th July 2017

Animal Aid has called for an urgent amendment to the British Horseracing Authority’s (BHA) Rules of Racing in order to ban the whip for any reason other than safety. If the regulatory body refuses, it should, at the very least, amend its rules so that jockeys who repeatedly flout the whip regulations could receive a lifetime ban.

The national animal rights group contacted the BHA after jockey James Doyle received a 15-day ban (with five of those days deferred for 42 days) from the racing regulator’s Disciplinary Panel for breaching the whip rules five times in six months. The last occasion was in a high-profile race where Doyle’s horse, Barney Roy, received an excessive number of whip strikes. He finished the race in second place.

History has shown that jockeys, like Doyle (see References below), who are repeat offenders do not respond to punishments entailing suspension or financial penalties, presumably because the risk is worth the benefit if they win.

Furthermore, research detailed in a 2015 report entitled Abuse and Lose, by Animal Aid’s Horse Racing Consultant, Dene Stansall, demonstrated that, in high profile races where first and second places are hotly contested, the likelihood of jockeys breaking the whip rules increases significantly. Unsurprisingly, most abuse happens during the final stages of those races.

In summary, the report found that:

  • 75 per cent of breaches were by the first and second jockeys at the finish of a race.
  • And again in 75 per cent of breaches, there was a distance of just half a length or less between horses – down to the smallest of margins.

Says Animal Aid’s Horse Racing Consultant, Dene Stansall:

‘The recent incident of James Doyle hitting his horse Barney Roy an excessive number of times exemplifies what Animal Aid has said all along. Firstly, no amount of hitting horses with the whip can ever guarantee first place – in fact it can have quite the opposite effect. Secondly, it shows that the BHA’s whip regulations do not work, because there are hundreds of breaches every year, with some jockeys – like Doyle – repeatedly flouting the rules year on year. Lastly, it demonstrates that the racing industry is unwilling to listen to the majority of the public who want to see an end to the use of the whip in racing for so-called “encouragement”.

‘It’s high time that the BHA got the message about the whip: it’s cruel, ineffective and obsolete. If they fail to ban the whip, then they should, at the very least, alter the rules so that repeat offenders receive a lifetime ban.’

Notes to Editors:

  • The whip may be used for safety and ‘encouragement’. Animal Aid is calling for an end to the use of the whip for anything other than safety. This has been the situation in Norway for years, where jockeys carry, but do not use, the whip. There is no reason the same could not apply in Britain.
  • The current rules stipulate that jockeys are allowed to hit their horses seven times in a Flat race and eight times in a Jump race.
  • The race for which James Doyle was referred to the BHA’s Disciplinary Panel was the Coral Eclipse Stakes at Sandown Park on 8 July 2017.
  • View the press release and report, Abuse and Lose
  • A YouGov poll commissioned by Animal Aid in 2014 found that 70 per cent of respondents (or 81 per cent of those who expressed a view) oppose the use of the whip in horse racing.

More information:

For further information and interviews, please contact Dene Stansall on 01732 364546.


  • In addition to the five breaches in six months of 2017 (two of which were at Ascot in June), Doyle breached the whip rules four times in 2016, six times in 2015 (making him one of the top offenders that year) and four times in 2014.
  • Notably, in October 2014, he received a seven-day ban and £10,000 fine at the Qipco Champion Stakes at Ascot for his use of the whip on Noble Mission.
  • In September 2015, Doyle was suspended for 14 days by a Disciplinary Panel for breaching the whip rules five times in six months.
  • He has even gained notoriety for his use of the whip in Australia this year. See
  • It should further be noted that this is the second time this year that Doyle has hit Barney Roy so many times as to breach the rules (the last being at Ascot in June).

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