All style. No substance: Racing industry’s latest welfare initiative


However, the slick new website fails to deliver meaningful promises and lacks accuracy on key issues, such as the number of horses from the racing industry who were sent to slaughter last year, or the number of horses killed in training. According to the Horse PWR website, 83 Thoroughbreds with passports were slaughtered in England in 2023. However, figures obtained by Animal Aid via a Freedom of Information request to the Food Standards Agency showed that 175 horses carrying Weatherbys passports (the passport-issuing agency for the racing industry) were slaughtered in England in 2023.*

In December 2023, the former Secretary of State for the Environment, George Eustice MP, called for the racing industry to redirect £12 million from prize money into horse aftercare.

In March, Animal Aid launched its horse aftercare campaign, due to the fact that horses who leave racing are only provided with around a pitiful £130 per horse. Animal Aid is lobbying MPs to support Mr Eustice’s request for greater funding, in order to force the racing industry to provide the funding required, since it continues to refuse to regulate the over-breeding of foals.

The BHA’s latest publicity stunt is just another example of racing’s self-serving rhetoric – for example, the Horse Welfare Board (HWB) published its five-year strategy ‘A life well-lived’ in February 2020. This initiative was meant to improve the welfare of race horses, both during and after their “careers”. However, four years into the five-year strategy, and there has been no meaningful change. Every year, around 200 horses die on British racecourses. Race horses are still being sold and slaughtered for their meat once they are no longer of use to the industry. An unknown number are killed in their yards. Others are sold from person to person in a downward spiral of neglect. Horses are still being beaten with whips.

More pertinently, the BHA’s new public-facing media campaign follows Animal Aid’s undercover investigation which showed that horses from the racing industry were being sent to slaughter. The footage from the investigation was used in a 2021 Panorama programme, and the repercussions of this are still being felt by the racing industry. Despite promises and excuses from the racing industry when the programme was aired, the situation has not improved – it has actually worsened:

  • Great Britain: The Food Standards Agency stated that in 2023, 175 horses registered with Weatherbys Passports (British and Irish) were slaughtered in licensed abattoirs in England. This number is an increase from 2022, when 148 horses with Weatherbys passports were killed.
  • Ireland: The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine stated that 1,428 race horses were killed in a slaughterhouse in Ireland in 2023, following a question by Paul Murphy TD. This figure is a 36% increase from 2022, and is yet further confirmation that the racing industry’s claim that “the horse is ensured the highest standards of care” is simply empty rhetoric. It is important to note that Ireland supplies about half of all the horses who train and race in Great Britain.

*Further discrepancies in figures are as follows:

  • 175 horses were killed whilst racing in Britain in 2023 (Horse PWR says 158 were killed in 2023)
  • 637 whip offences were committed in 2023 – an increase of 48.5% on 2022 (Horse PWR says there were 592 whip offences for 2023)

 

 

 



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