OPINION: Racing gone to the dogs in appalling self-sustaining circle of cruelty

“We’re talking about destroying horses on an industrial scale,” Paul McGreevy, professor of Animal Behaviour and Welfare Science at the University of Sydney.

OPINION: By PETER FITZSIMONS on OCT 24, 2019 | The views expressed in this opinion piece do not necessarily reflect the views of Animals Australia.
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And so there you go. We thought racing was at least a little like the marketing campaign for the Everest race this weekend: jousting jockeys, brilliant trainers, beautiful people, high fashion, champagne, grandly galloping G-Gs, roars of joy, followed by millions of dollars fluttering around the clever winners.

Yes, we vaguely perceived that the entire industry is built on battlers blowing their dough, but look, that’s the way it goes, pass the champers.

When it came to animal welfare, we rather thought the G-Gs were treated well. Animal cruelty in the gambling industry seemed to be the province of greyhounds, as revealed by that staggering Four Corners expose three years ago.

But the nags? We never really thought about it and, if we did, we just assumed they were “put out to pasture” somewhere. After all, that is what the racing industry told us, with an estimate that no more than 1 per cent, if that – just some 34 race horses in all – ended up at the abattoir, and that for unavoidable reasons.

But now we know. Thanks to a two-year investigation by the ABC’s Caro Meldrum-Hanna – the same journalist who did the expose on the greyhounds – and the stunning report she aired on 7.30 on Thursday, we know the truth.

Rather than 34 horses, the reckoning is, according to the Coalition for the Protection of Racehorses, that annually it could be as many as 4000 nags in Australia bred to be racehorses end their lives in the most appalling conditions, mistreated, before being slaughtered at abattoirs to become commercial pet-food – with some of them even ending up as mince meat for the greyhound industry!

Conjure with it a moment: slow and old horses being slaughtered to feed the appalling greyhound industry – a self-sustaining circle of animal cruelty.

“We’re talking about destroying horses on an industrial scale,” Paul McGreevy, professor of Animal Behaviour and Welfare Science at the University of Sydney, said on the program.

Get it? Racehorses slaughtered on an “industrial scale”, despite assurances from the likes of Peter V’landys, the CEO of Racing NSW, that “zero” horses from NSW finished their lives at abattoirs.


“Because it is against the rules of racing,” he said. Great! “Against the rules of racing” and yet 4000 racehorses end up as dog food! What are your “rules” worth, Mr V’landys, when this is happening?

Great to have “rules” but can we also have an industry that gives a shit about enforcing them, about caring for the animals even when they no longer serve the purpose they’re raised for: separating the mug punter from his money?

And it is not just the appalling numbers killed, it is the horrifying manner of their deaths, the barbaric cruelty with which they are treated.

Before you, the reader, send me angry letters, can I tell you? You have to see the footage to believe it, and I would not let a child under 15 years old watch it. One of the workers at the abattoir is seen beating horses as he shoves them into a death corral.

“Come on you dumb f---ing horse!” he screams. “F---! You’re dead! You are dead!”

Others are seen using electric prods on the horse’s anuses and genitalia before one calls a horse a “f---ing stupid c---” just before he zaps it with a bolt of electricity which drops it, whereupon he kicks it in the head. Other horses have to be zapped FIVE times before they are finally put out of their agony. Much of this is seen by other screaming horses before they meet their own fate.

Words cannot describe the horror of the whole appalling thing. It was an extraordinary expose of systemic cruelty and slaughter of horses the moment they are no longer of use. It makes the 122 horses put down on race tracks in the last year look like the lucky ones, and the whole thing is absolutely disgusting.

But look, enjoy the Everest, hear? Big day out. Everyone will be looking great. But this is the reality of the industry you support.

Number's up

Is there no decency in racing at all?

There might be. One of my sources insists that Racing Australia actually tried to introduce a ban on sending horses to the knackery and abattoir only to be blocked by Racing Victoria and Racing Queensland. Why? Could it be that much of the racing industry actually needs the abattoirs and knackeries, because without them – and with so much overbreeding in their endless search to breed a champion – there is no way to rehome them all. But as for Racing Australia’s CEO Barry O’Farrell blaming the abattoirs, that is – what’s that word again? – bullshit. The horror starts with the numbers. Your industry’s claim, Barry, was just 34 horses sent to abattoir. The reality is 4000. That outrage is your industry’s alone.

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