Racehorse welfare spotlighted in Commons (UK)

Race horse welfare has been put under the political spotlight with a series of hard-hitting Parliamentary Questions by Lib Dem MP, Mike Hancock.

Cross-posted from Horsemart, UK (19 Dec 08)

The Member for Portsmouth South has this week also tabled a Commons Motion (see Notes below) demanding that the government press the racing industry to curb over-production of Thoroughbreds and to remedy ‘the alarming level of equine death on British racecourses’.

Mr Hancock launched his Commons campaign following a recent meeting with national campaign group, Animal Aid, which has been investigating and producing detailed exposés relating to race horse welfare for a decade. Approximately 18,000 foals are born into the closely-related British and Irish racing industries each year, yet only around 40 per cent go on to race.

Some horses who do not make the grade are used in other equestrian events but many are slaughtered for meat or repeatedly change hands in a downward spiral of neglect. In addition, more than 400 horses die or are destroyed due to racecourse or training injuries.

Mr Hancock’s Parliamentary Questions are aimed at forcing the government to address the problems of Thoroughbred over-production and the slaughter of unwanted but healthy horses, as well as the catastrophic racing and training injuries that lead to the deaths of hundreds more horses each year. He has asked for government action because the largely self-regulating racing industry is not only failing to address major horse welfare problems, but it publishes little in the way of data on death and injury.

Last March, Animal Aid launched an online database, ‘Race Horse Deathwatch’, which details fatalities on British racecourses. But the national campaign group recognises that not every Thoroughbred death comes to its attention. Mr Hancock’s EDM calls on the Government to ‘undertake and put into the public domain a full audit of racehorse production, death and injury’.

Says Mike Hancock: ‘Horses are magnificent animals and it is terrible that they are treated in such a way simply for sport. The research done by Animal Aid is greatly concerning. It is a tragedy that so many horses a year die as a result of injuries sustained in racing and many more that don’t make the grade for racing suffer neglect or are slaughtered for meat. I am determined to get the Government to act and improve the standards of animal welfare in the industry. It is not acceptable in this day and age for Racing to be self-regulating to such a degree and proper statistics on the welfare of horses in racing must be published.’

Says Andrew Tyler, Director of Animal Aid: ‘We very much welcome this important intervention by Mike Hancock in the debate about race horse welfare. The racing industry has created a breeding and racing regime that treats the Thoroughbred as a mere expendable commodity. It is little wonder that, every year, large numbers of horses are needlessly killed and injured. The time has come for racing to account for itself and for its excesses to be curbed.‘ Horsemart.co.uk

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