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Greens Matter of Public Importance - Racing Industry Cruelty

31 October 2019

 

Ms O'CONNOR (Clark - Leader of the Greens) - Madam Speaker, I move -

That the House take note of the following matter: racing industry cruelty.

Next Tuesday in Melbourne, the race that stops the nation will be underway at 3 p.m. Beautiful thoroughbred horses will barrel down the straight and, no doubt, at the end of that race, some trainers and owners will be all that much richer, as will some punters. The question after the 7.30 Report went to air on 17 October, that is two weeks ago today, is, what happens to those horses once they have reached the end of their profit-making life for trainers and owners?

What we know is that, in Australia, thousands and thousands of beautiful racing horses and trotters, are sent off to slaughterhouses and abattoirs in New South Wales and Queensland, at the very least. We do know, despite what the Minister for Racing said this morning, that it has been confirmed by the ABC's meticulously thorough investigation that Tasmanian racehorses, at least, have been identified at the Meramist Abattoir in Caboolture in Queensland.

The reason we ask this question today is that the story went to air two weeks ago. Like many Tasmanians, we have been waiting to hear something from the Racing minister or Tasracing in response to a very serious and damning allegation and a finding made by journalist Caro MeldrumHanna that Tasmanian horses are being sent to an abattoir in Queensland. There is no explanation for the minister's silence on this issue. There is no justification for Tasracing's silence on this issue, either. We have clear, unequivocal evidence that horses are travelling from Tasmania to slaughterhouses interstate.

The minister said this morning that the Office of Racing Integrity is working with Racing Australia on traceability of racehorses that have been retired from the industry. That process began three years ago and there is still no real traceability of thoroughbred horses in the racing industry. What we do know is that under the rules of racing in Tasmania there is no requirement for any rehoming of former racehorses and under the national rules neither is there any requirement whatsoever. The fact of the matter is neither the minister, nor TasRacing, nor the Office of Racing Integrity can provide any reassurance to Tasmanians that they know what is happening to ex-racehorses in this state.

We know that at least some of them are ending up feeding greyhounds because as we heard in the parliamentary inquiry into the same shocking kinds of cruelty and wastage in the greyhound racing industry, beautiful thoroughbred horses are being sent to greyhound trainers and they are feeding greyhounds as they are, for example, at Anthony Bullock's property in the north of Tasmania and interestingly, in Tracing's annual report this year, Mr Bullock is the leading trainer.

I want to read to the House some of what ABC's 7.30 Report found:

Big business, big government revenue and big prize money requires big breeding, with the industry producing more than 14 000 foals last financial year.

The Tasmanian Government is complicit in the breeding of animals that are sent off to abattoirs and knackeries for destruction. The Tasmanian Government funds breeding so that horses can be bred up because someone may want the next Black Caviar or the next Phar Lap but if they do not turn out to be a big cash turner for their owner, those animals, like the greyhounds, are discarded. The Tasmanian Government has a breeding bonus scheme on top of the $30 million annual subsidy, public money, that it gives to TasRacing. Here we have a statement from Sarah Courtney, former minister for racing, from July last year, that says:

The Hodgman Liberal Government recognises that breeding horses is an important primary industry and funding a breeding incentive program will allow it to grow further.

That is obscene. We have state-sanctioned breeding of animals only to be discarded and die the most terrifying and awful deaths.

As Caro Meldrum-Hanna, an outstanding journalist, says in her 7.30 Report story:

Each year around 8500 horses are retired from the track and according to the racing industry, less than 1 per cent of them are ending up at an abattoir.

But as experienced vets are saying, the figures just do not add up. At one abattoir alone in Queensland, and this is the one where they identified Tasmanian horses, around 4000 racehorses a year are killed. They had at the abattoir covert cameras recording horses being beaten and abused from the moment they arrived at Meramist, trampled and trapped and forced to slaughter. They were trapped in a maze of holding pens, frantic and disorientated and subject to electric shocks.

Caro Meldrum-Hanna says,

We've detected horses from Victoria, South Australia, the ACT, Queensland, Tasmania, even the Northern Territory, ending up at Meramist, despite Racing Australia introducing a traceability rule three years ago to track all thoroughbreds from birth to retirement.

It is very clear that the overbreeding of these animals for profit is a huge part of the problem. The RSPCA has identified that as a significant contributor towards what has been described as wastage, just as it was with the greyhound industry, but it is the needless overbreeding and then discarding for slaughter of beautiful animals in the name of sport. We know it is not a sport, it is an industry that depends on cruelty in order for profits to be turned. If you do not believe that these animals are being discarded, I recommend to everyone that they watch the 7.30 Report.