Ban the whip!

Horses are the only animals who may be beaten in public for entertainment. That is why Animal Aid has campaigned for 15 years to ban the whip from racing in Britain. 

Public opinion is on the side of humaneness 

Not only do Animal Aid disagree with the use of the whip, so too do an increasing majority of the public.  A 2018 public opinion poll found that 68% of respondents oppose the use of the whip in racing. When only including those who expressed a view, this figure rose to 83%. In 2022, Animal Aid commissioned further polling, which found that 72% now believe that the whip should be banned in horseracing, with the figure rising to 89% when only including those who expressed a view. This increasing strength of public opinion should be acknowledged by the BHA and the wider racing industry.  

Current situation with breaches and penalties 

Under current rules, when jockeys are found to have breached whip rules, they receive a short suspension,  and/or a fine. However, these rules are so frequently broken that it’s unclear if they actually discourage over-use of the whip. The jockey who rode the winner of the 2022 Grand National broke the rules with his use of the whip, but still won the £500,000 prize, about £50,000 of which was his to take home. He was fined £400 and given a 9-day ban, which was pointless as he was retiring after the race. In this case, and many like it, rule breaking ultimately benefitted the jockey.

Use of the whip outside of Britain 

 The whip was banned in Norway in 1982 and British jockeys still ride there. The use of the whip for ‘encouragement’ was also banned in Sweden in 2022. 

Racing’s regulator, the British Horseracing Authority (BHA), specifically sanction jockeys to whip their horses for ‘encouragement’ – in other words, in an attempt to improve a jockey’s chance of winning. Unconvincingly, the BHA’s justification for allowing horses to be whipped on these grounds, is that it allows them to stay ‘focused and concentrated’. The reality is that some jockeys will beat tired, struggling horses, in order to squeeze every last drop of effort from them. 

Reduction in the number of permitted strikes  – a possible solution? 

A paper published in 2020 shows that horses have a similar perception of pain to humans Therefore a strike of the whip is painful, one strike is one too many and reducing the upper limit would still mean an animal being hit, which causes pain and so it not acceptable. 

The future of the whip  

Clearly things need to change. To continue to allow the use the whip in 2022 is unacceptable, in the face of mounting scientific evidence, the will of the public and also common sense. 

The racing industry have been consulting on the use of the whip since 2021. Animal Aid believe the only reasonable outcome of this consultation is a complete ban on the use of the whip for ‘encouragement’ in British racing. If whips are carried, they should only be used on extremely rare occasions when the safety of humans or horses is at risk. 

Check back soon for our updated whip briefing sheet for 2024.