RSPCA members vote to ban the whip in racing

Posted on the 29th June 2011

In a move that is likely to prove critical to the outcome of the racing industry’s current review of the future of the whip, the RSPCA membership has declared its opposition to jockeys whipping horses, except for safety reasons. At present, most whip use is aimed at pressing horses to ‘perform’ better.

The industry’s regulatory body, the British Horseracing Authority (BHA), is engaged in a wide-ranging review of the whip – a process due to end in October. The issue has become all the more urgent because of the public outcry over the exhausted and dehydrated Grand National winner, Ballabriggs, being thrashed in the final stages of the race. An even more significant development was Towcester racecourse’s announcement in April that it intended to ban all whip use from its races – except for safety reasons – starting in October.

At the RSPCA’s 25 June Annual General Meeting, the membership overwhelmingly supported a motion demanding that, ‘the whip should only be used for safety purposes in the backhand position, and that the penalty for contravening the above rule should be the forfeiture of the race and purse by the jockey, the owner and the trainer…’

Animal Aid has campaigned against the whip for 10 years. It recently ran an advert in seven national newspapers calling on the public to send ‘Ban the Whip’ postcards to the Chief Executives of the leading racecourse operators, as well as the BHA and the Secretary of State for Sport, Jeremy Hunt.

The RSPCA, until the AGM vote, had not declared its clear opposition to use of the whip for ‘encouragement’. Its intervention, as the industry decides the whip’s future, is likely to be highly influential.

Angela Walder and Richard Ryder, long-standing members of the RSPCA’s governing council, tabled the motion. Ms Walder said of the decisive vote: ‘I am delighted that the RSPCA members at their AGM voted to abolish this form of cruelty to horses. I hope this will send a clear message to the BHA as to how the RSPCA and its members view this matter. This motion is binding on the RSPCA’s governing Council.’

Says Animal Aid Director Andrew Tyler: 

‘Animal Aid congratulates the RSPCA membership for coming out so decisively against the cruelty inflicted by the whip. The BHA constantly cites the Society as a body whose opinion it heeds and which it regards as taking a responsible and pragmatic view of racing. As to the question of the whip’s future, it has now received a clear message: get rid of it.’

More information

  • For full background and interviews, contact Andrew Tyler or Dene Stansall on 01732 364546. Angela Walder can be contacted on 01795 872583.
  • ISDN line available for broadcast-quality interviews.

Notes to editors

  • Animal Aid’s report, Beaten to the Line, revealed that there were a staggering 887 breaches of the BHA’s whip rules during 2010. Fifteen jockeys committed 10 or more offences each during the year.
  • A 2004 Animal Aid investigation, called A Hiding to Nothing, demonstrated that – cruelty issues aside – the use of the whip by jockeys does not improve their chances of winning. The survey comprised a meticulous investigation of 161 races run during October and November 2003, involving 285 jockeys and 1,500 horses. Nearly 200 tables described how often and when in a race a whip was used.
  • The findings of Animal Aid’s 2004 whip survey (see above) have been reinforced by a new University of Sydney report which also concludes that whipping race horses does not improve performance. An Investigation of Racing Performance and Whip Use by Jockeys in Thoroughbred Races can be viewed at:

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