Australian horse racing left in the dust by Californian whip rule progress

RSPCA Australia has joined a growing chorus of voices internationally, supporting positive moves by the Californian horse racing industry to stop horses being hit with whips, and says Australian racing continues to fail community expectations on animal welfare.

The California Horse Racing Board (CHRB) has this week voted to advance a proposal that could see the state implement the strongest whip rules in the world.

Under the new rules, which are now out for public consultation, hitting horses with whips would not be permitted except “when necessary to control the horse for the safety of the horse or rider”.

RSPCA Chief Science and Strategy Officer Dr Bidda Jones said this approach was consistent with the RSPCA’s position and community expectations.

“Polling among racegoers and the wide community consistently shows – not surprisingly – that people do not like seeing these majestic horses being struck repeatedly with a whip.

“Independent polling commissioned by the RSPCA found that around 3 in every 4 Australians think horses should not be hit with a whip.

“Even moreso, around 9 out of 10 people who watch or bet on racing will continue to do so if whipping is stopped.

“It’s long past time for the Australian racing industry to sit up and take notice.

“There’s absolutely nothing to suggest whips don’t cause serious pain and distress to horses, and the concerned rumblings from the community are getting louder and stronger by the day.

“We’ve long advocated for, at least a trial of, whip-free racing here in Australia, and there’s no reason why that can’t happen right now.

“Meanwhile, we applaud these positive moves by California, and urge them to follow through with this outstanding progress.

“And we once again urge the Australian racing industry to act on the evidence and announce a phase-out of routine whip-use as soon as possible,” said Dr Jones. 

While jockeys may need to carry a device for use in emergency situations, horses should not be routinely hit with whips in training or racing.