This week, Greens NSW Gaming and Racing spokesperson John Kaye raised significant concerns about the treatment of horses in the NSW racing industry and questioned the role that celebrations like the Melbourne Cup have in perpetuating a culture of gambling and its associated social harms.
John introduced a motion to the NSW Legislative Council and made an adjournment speech last night, which you can read below.
John will also be attending a demonstration from 8am in Martin Place on Tuesday 5 November to alert Sydney-siders to the grim realities of the horse racing industry. You can check out the details here.
John Kaye Motion to NSW Legislative Council:
31 October 2013
Dr Kaye to move:
1. This House notes that on Tuesday 5 November the Melbourne Cup Race will be held at Flemington Racecourse in Melbourne, Victoria
2. That this House also notes significant community concerns about the treatment of horses in the thoroughbred racing industry, including that:
a) Only thirty precent of the 18,000 thoroughbred foals born in Australia will ever end up racing
b) Significant numbers of failed and injured racehorses are sent to knackeries to be slaughtered primarily for pet food
c) A high proportion of horses in the racing industry are fed high-concentrate diet and denied the opportunity to continuously graze, resulting in 89% of horses experiencing gastric ulcers, the severity intensifying with training and racing
d) An unacceptable proportion of horses in the thoroughbred racing industry suffer from incidences of musculoskeletal injuries resulting from racing and training
e) More than 75% of racing thoroughbred horses in the racing industry suffer from bleeding in the lungs and windpipe (Exercise-induced Pulmonary Haemorrhage) due to over-exertion
f) Whipping of horses is still commonplace in the NSW racing industry, despite a study undertaken by the University of Sydney, which won the Australian Museum Eureka Prize for scientific research, which has demonstrated that that horses run fastest when not being whipped
g) A significant proportion of horses in the racing industry are forced to endure solitary confinement, resulting in abnormal, stereotypic behaviour including crib-biting, weaving, box-walking and wind-sucking, due to lack of social interaction and intermittent feeding.
3. That this house recognises that wagering on horse racing in NSW contributes to incidences of problem gambling and associated social harms, and, in particular that:
a) betting on horse racing comprised 14% of total wagering expenditure in Australia, equating to $2.6 billion annually
b) the participation rates for race gambling were significantly higher in young people
4. That this house expresses concern over the failure of the regulatory process to ensure appropriate treatment of horses in the thoroughbred racing industry and the welfare of animals once they exit the industry, including that:
a) The Australian Racing Board and Racing NSW are failing to enforce and penalise breaches of animal welfare, including the use of the whip when the horse is showing no response or when a horse is whipped on the head, abdomen or flank
b) State agencies governing knackeries are not required to maintain any records regarding the process of meat for pet food, including the number and type of horses being slaughtered
c) The Australian Racing Board and Racing NSW are failing to document the destinations of racehorses once they leave the racing industry, estimated to be approximately 18,000 each year
5. That this house calls on the Minister for Gaming and Racing Minister George Souris to:
a) Review the role and effectiveness of Racing NSW in regards to the monitoring and enforcement of animal welfare and the potential conflict of interest of one body both regulating and promoting thoroughbred horse racing in NSW
b) Ensure that industry regulation of animal welfare is based on current scientific research
c) Re-examine the effectiveness of the existing compliance-based regulatory framework and the failure of punitive measures in place for breaches of animal welfare
d) Investigate the horse racing industry’s over-breeding and wastage rates, and its failure to institute meaningful rehoming and rehabilitation programs.
John Kaye Adjournment Speech – The Melbourne Cup
31 October 2013
Dr JOHN KAYE [3.48 p.m.]: For many Australians, the Melbourne Cup will be their one flutter on the races for the entire year. It is a day when workplaces, families and mates get together and share the thrill of a wager, the fun of watching a race enhanced by a small financial stake and the joy of winning or, more commonly, the minor disappointment of losing. It is a national day of celebration earmarked by social events, fashion and fun. However, many participants in Melbourne Cup celebrations will be blissfully unaware of the harsh reality that the industry plays a major role in the climbing toll of gambling addiction and it fails to effectively regulate itself to avoid appalling animal welfare outcomes.
The truth might disturb casual punters and the millions of Australians who will join in the Melbourne Cup festivities. However, the toll on vulnerable gamblers and horses will continue unabated unless the thoroughbred racing industry is forced to address the consequences of its rampant promotion of wagering and the widespread exploitation of horses. According to the University of Sydney, betting on horseracing comprises 14 per cent of total wagering expenditure in Australia, equating to $2.6 billion annually. While many people placing a bet on the Melbourne Cup are occasional opportunistic gamblers, it would be irresponsible to gloss over the role that the Spring Racing Carnival plays in propagating a culture of gambling and its associated social harms.
The Melbourne Cup plays a role in perpetuating and normalising the $95 billion that Australians spend each year on gambling. A University of Sydney study found that participation rates for race gambling are significantly higher in young people who are more vulnerable to gambling addiction. Inevitably those of us who question the ethics and practices of the horseracing industry, particularly at the time of the Melbourne Cup, are accused of being un-Australian, wowsers and the fun police. However, conflating a love of socialising, fashion and taking much-needed time out from work with some of the abhorrent industry practices fails to do justice to the problem gambling and significant horse suffering.
The industry itself has admitted that the fate of failed racehorses is a problem. Peter McGauran, Chief Executive Officer of the Australian Racing Board labels it “an unresolved issue”. Significant numbers of failed and injured racehorses exit the racing industry each year, many bouncing from owner to owner only to end up at a knackery to be slaughtered for pet food. Of the 18,000 foals that are born in Australia each year, it has been estimated that 70 per cent will never make it onto the track. Earlier this year, the horrific treatment of horses at a knackery in Laverton, Victoria, was exposed. Horses were being beaten, shot in front of one another and dragged across gravel. One horse, while conscious, had her throat cut and her tail cut off. What happens in New South Wales knackeries is largely unknown. I sincerely hope that the horses here do not have to endure what their race mates had to suffer in Victoria.
However, the lax regulatory arrangements do not offer much assurance that all these horses, some who were once champions, receive a humane death. For the three years or so that some horses do have a racing career, their racing and training regime is often marred by injury, illness and deprivation. A high proportion of horses in the racing industry are fed high-concentrate diets and denied the opportunity to graze continuously, resulting in 89 per cent of horses experiencing gastric ulcers. More than 75 per cent of thoroughbred racing horses in the racing industry also experience bleeding in the lungs and windpipe, an exercise-induced pulmonary haemorrhage, due to over-exertion. The use of solitary confinement and whipping also raises significant concerns about the welfare of horses in the racing industry.
There are better ways to regulate the industry, and to define and enforce standards for both marketing and the treatment of horses. Both short- and long-term regulatory reforms will be required if the racing industry is to meet public expectations of the treatment of animals. According to the 2012 annual report of Racing NSW more than $1.1 billion of New South Wales TAB wagering sales is placed on New South Wales thoroughbred racing each year, along with a further $3 billion through other wagering operators. More of this money must be invested in rehabilitation, re-training and rehoming efforts of thoroughbred racehorses. The current model that sees a significant numbers of horses discarded once they are no longer turning a profit is unacceptable.
There is an urgent need for a comprehensive review of the regulatory framework of thoroughbred racing in New South Wales. Having one body that both regulates and promotes the industry creates an inherent conflict of interest in which animal welfare and social responsibility run a poor last behind industry profits and growth. This Melbourne Cup, punters should enjoy their flutter but both the horses and problem gamblers are in desperate need of a critical analysis of the long-ignored human and animal welfare costs of this industry.