When you’re watching the Melbourne Cup today, think about this: Beating an animal with a whip is a clear-cut case of animal cruelty — unless you are a jockey, and the animal is a horse.

“The use of whips in horse racing is arguably the most visible form of violence to animals,” according to Dr Paul McGreevey, Professor of Animal Behaviour and Animal Welfare Science at the University of Sydney.

Yet Racing Australia rules currently allow a horse to be whipped five times prior to the final stage of a race, and then an unlimited number of times during the last 100 metres.

Whips have the potential to cause localised trauma and tissue damage to horses. What’s more, the last 100 metres of a race – when horses can be whipped an unlimited number of times – is exactly the time when horses are more fatigued and have less capacity to respond.

Whips have long been defended by the racing industry as a way to make racing fairer and safer. But we now know that this is not true.

A new world-first study undertaken by the University of Sydney shows that whipping horses does not improve their chances of winning races. The peer-reviewed research compared 126 “whipping-permitted” and “whipping-free” races in the UK and found no difference in movement on course, interference on course, incidents related to jockey behaviour, or race finishing times.

“The racing industry has long argued that whips are necessary as a safety aid, because they can help a jockey with steering. There is also a belief – both in the racing community and among punters – that they make horses run faster. But, until now, no one’s actually tested these things,” said Jan Davis, RSPCA Tasmania CEO.

“This research provides conclusive evidence to show there is no reason for jockeys to use whips on horses – and the RSPCA is calling for a phase-out of whips in racing,” she said.

Some within the racing industry have also recognised that whipping horses is no longer acceptable.

In a recent public statement, Racing Victoria said “the current national whip rules are no longer appropriate and not in the best interests of … Australian racing, both now and in the long-term”. It said racing in Australia was lagging behind international standards and risked alienating its audience.

It is calling for whips to be phased out and is seeking the national introduction of new rules that would limit the number of times a rider was allowed to whip their horse per race. This proposed reform would bring Australia into line with the United Kingdom, Ireland, Germany, France and parts of the United States.

It is time for action. The use of whips in Australian horse racing has been proven by scientists to be not only ineffectual — but cruel. The RSPCA is therefore calling for the racing industry in Tasmania to support the phasing out of whips in horse racing.



Media Contact
Jan Davis, CEO – RSPCA Tasmania
Email: jdavis@rspcatas.org.au
Mobile: 0409 004 228