Thoroughbred Breeders Australia (TBA) has outlined an eight-point plan, including an audit of the horse retirement data, it says will help tackle the industry’s horse welfare issues.
The publication of the plan comes after TBA chief executive Tom Reilly met with Racing Australia chair Greg Nichols to discuss issues highlighted in the recent 7.30 report on the ABC.
“There are no easy fixes in this welfare discussion, but having an independent task force will be the foundation of developing good policy,” Reilly wrote to members this week. “It goes without saying, that breeders must be widely consulted in any discussions.
“The board of TBA believe the issues that have been raised need a national and collaborative response and we are determined to play our part in good policy outcomes. I have already received a number of good suggestions from breeders with ideas to assist the industry and all are gratefully received.”
Establish an industry welfare taskforce: This body needs to be chaired by an independent person of standing within the industry and make recommendations to Racing Australia and the wider industry. It must include welfare experts and senior veterinarians independent of the industry’s regulators.
An independent audit and review of Racing Australia’s retirement data: Their data, which provides information on where a horse goes to upon retiring from racing, has been heavily criticised in the past week. While some reports have misrepresented or confused what these numbers represent, it is crucial that both the thoroughbred industry and wider public have confidence in their accuracy. As such, there must be an independent audit of the numbers and the collection and compliance with retirement forms.
A review of the number of thoroughbreds going to livestock sales, abattoirs and meatworks: It is essential the thoroughbred industry understand the extent of the numbers as we deal with issues of horses leaving the racing or breeding industry. This will enable the thoroughbred industry to appropriately fund rehoming and retraining programs.
TBA and RA to review patterns in the foal crop: The number of horses being bred has decreased by a quarter since the mid 2000s, but we need to better understand how supply meets demand. We also need to review the number of horses being bred that do not enter racing or return to breeding.
Ensure the development of a national horse traceability register: We need to be able to follow our horses after they leave the racing or breeding industry. An industry working group needs to be established urgently to build on the political momentum for the register.
Develop national standards and guidelines for horse welfare: At present horses are not part of the Animal Health Australia framework, unlike cattle or sheep. Developing this framework would encourage best practice, especially for horses that leave the racing and breeding industry.
Start a full circle program for Australian thoroughbreds: This scheme, developed by the US Trotting Association allows people with an interest in a horse to put their name on a register so that if the animal is ever discovered to be in trouble, for example is offered at a livestock sale, the person or people on the register can be contacted. It does not oblige that person to take over responsibility for the horse, but is a way of enabling people to assist a horse they care about in times of trouble. Read more here http://lifeafterracing.ustrotting.com/full-circle.cfm
Establishment of an organisation similar to Drinkwise: In 2005 the alcohol industry decided to collaborate – despite their fierce commercial competition – to form a body that could promote responsible drinking and also assist them with issues around perception. Such a body would be invaluable for the thoroughbred industry, especially if driven by participants. It would also be tasked with disseminating accurate and transparent information, even on challenging issues.