We have a moral duty to treat animals in a compassionate way and many organisations have expressed serious concern about the welfare of racehorses. The horseracing industry needs to follow high animal welfare standards and listen to concerns raised.
The sport’s governing body, the British Horseracing Authority (BHA), works with organisations such as the RSPCA in order to reduce risk and improve safety for racehorses. The BHA also has a welfare code and regulations that covers standards of horse welfare.
The BHA conducted a review in 2011-2012 into the use of the whip, which led to a reduction in the number of times a whip can be used before jockeys are in breach of racing rules.
The previous Labour Government also introduced the Animal Welfare Act which strengthened the laws on responsibilities placed on owners and carers of horses, including horses used for racing. The Act brought in tougher punishments and bigger fines for animal cruelty and neglect, it imposes a duty of care on people with responsibility for animals and a requirement for owners to meet the welfare needs of all animals in their care.
Excessive use of the whip in horseracing could therefore lead to prosecution under this Act.
The current Government believe the BHA rules, together with existing animal welfare legislation, provide adequate protection for the welfare of racehorses. Concerns remain from many organisations about this and I believe it is important that rules concerning the use of the whip are enforced by the BHA so that horse safety is maximised.
The previous Labour Government achieved much to end the cruel and unnecessary suffering of animals and welcome the commitment by my Shadow Frontbench colleagues that a future Labour Government would seek to build on this and make further progress on animal welfare.