Horse racing doesn't have a 'horse retirement' problem – it has an overbreeding problem.

Australia's racing industry continues to avoid addressing the root cause of mass horse slaughter — and in doing so, condemns more horses to death.

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LAST UPDATED: 2 November 2019

The Australian racing industry has gone into its third week of damage control, and their well-oiled PR machine is in full swing.

Not only has it been faced with explosive evidence of mass horse slaughter and cruelty, but the predictable response of feigned shock and horror that its 'beloved' horses were ending up at notorious slaughterhouses appears not to have washed with the public — particularly after it was revealed that the industry not only knew about the killings, but that horses were being sold directly to kill buyers by horse racing trainers.

In an attempt to appease the outraged public, and undoubtedly nervous sponsors in the lead-up to its biggest event of the year, Australian horse racing reps have made a couple of announcements — no doubt hoping they sound just good enough that people will forget the images of terrified horses being kicked, sworn at, and thrashing desperately in bloody kill boxes that aired on ABC's 7.30 earlier this month.

But before we get into what they've promised, there's something really important we need to talk about — something the industry desperately wants to avoid talking about because it's absolutely fundamental to the systemic issue of ex-racehorse slaughter: overbreeding. Here's the problem:

  • Up to fifteen thousand foals are bred every year in Australia.
  • Horses that typically live for 25-30 years.
  • Horses that spend an average of only three years racing before they are discarded.
  • And that's if they make it to the racetrack — only 30% of horses born into racing each year actually start in a race.

That works out to be a LOT more horses bred for racing than anyone knows what to do with.

Thing is, the breeding process is ruthless — in pursuit of finding the rare 'champion', thousands upon thousands of horses will be born into an industry only to 'disappear' if they don't win enough races to turn a profit for their owners.

It's a huge problem — a systemic one in fact, and it's not one the racing industry wants to talk about because it knows that addressing overbreeding will mean cutting significantly into its hefty gambling profits.

They breed so many horses hoping they're going to find the next Winx or Black Caviar.Elio Celotto, Coalition for the Protection of Racehorses

So instead of doing what it should be doing — what it knows could actually result in meaningful, long-term improvements to the longevity of the animals its billion-dollar profits rely upon — the Australian racing industry's Victorian arm has announced;

  • Instead of killing the horses it discards at slaughterhouses, a vet can kill them on farms.
  • It doesn't support an outright ban on sending horses to slaughterhouses, instead directing a portion of profits to an 'Equine Wellbeing Fund' — which continues to have absolutely no transparency or oversight.
  • And as with all racing practices, this industry-run program will be completely self-regulated (because that's worked out so well for horses so far).

While the industry gives itself a pat on the back for establishing a fund that it purports will help 'support the wellbeing of racehorses across all stages of their lives' — it must know that while breeding numbers remain so high that this is in fact impossible. That's because there are simply not enough good homes for so many thousands of unwanted horses that to go to once their use to the racing industry has expired.

Unless the number of horses being bred by the industry drastically reduces, healthy horses and foals will continue to die.

Mass horse slaughter has long been accepted by the horse racing industry as the 'cost of doing business'. And when you consider that this is an industry that continues to defend the practice of whipping exhausted animals, the use of barbaric 'tongue ties', and the fact that at least one horse dies every three days on Australian racetracks (five deaths in the last six Melbourne Cup days alone)… it really should surprise no-one that not only is this gambling industry continuing to avoid addressing the underlying problem, but is now even claiming that sometimes a slaughterhouse is "the best welfare outcome" for the horses who no longer turn a profit?

Image of horse on slaughterhouse floor. Quote:'There may be some situations where the best welfare outcome for a horse is actually to end up ... at an abattoir or a knackery'. Quote from: 'Brian Kruger, Racing Victoria'

As we have seen with the inherent cruelty and mass-slaughter of dogs in Australia's greyhound racing industry, gambling money and animals are a toxic mix. As long as these industries are allowed to continue treating animals as commodities rather than the thinking, feeling, loving individuals that they are — horses and dogs will continue to suffer and die.

Join the calls to end horse cruelty by encouraging some of the racing industry's biggest sponsors to love horses — not racing! Take action today:

Speak up for horses »

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Animals + gambling = a toxic mix.


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