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Adjournment - Horse Carcass Location

Parliamentary Activity - Tuesday, 30 July 2019, Cassy O'Connor MP


Adjournment on horse carcasses found near Zoodoo: O'Connor 30 July, 2019

 

Ms O'CONNOR (Clark - Leader of the Greens) - Madam Speaker, I rise on adjournment tonight to speak about a horse - again. During this year's budget Estimates we asked the Minister for Racing, Ms Archer, and Mr John King from the Office of Racing Integrity about the circumstances surrounding the death of a horse on 31 May at Brighton. In order for people to understand that we are not just talking about a four-legged cash cow, this horse's name was A Loan Again from New Zealand. Over the course of A Loan Again's 11 years, that horse won for its owners in the vicinity of $150 000 and according to the racing guide information we have, the last race that A Loan Again ran in was on 19 May, 12 days before the horse died at Brighton.

We came into Estimates having received information from a racing industry insider to say that the horse had died and then had disappeared from the Brighton tracks and had been sent to Zoodoo and fed to the lions. We asked the minister and ORI these questions on 6 June in Estimates, and the information we received - and anyone can check the Hansard to confirm this- is that ORI began its investigation on the day before Estimates, 5 June, although it had found out on 1 June, which was the Sunday after the horse had died. In the follow-up week, on 12 June in the Estimates reply debate, I again got up and asked the minister what happened to that horse, what level of investigation there had been, whether there had been a vet present, whether there had been an autopsy done and whether the carcass had been found. The minister came into the House on 12 June and stated:

Ms O'Connor referred to the issue she raised while I had the Director of the Office of Racing Integrity with me. I can update the House. I reiterate that under the Australian rules of racing, there are reporting requirements in place in relation to the death of horses that are part of the racing industry. The Office of Racing Integrity is currently investigating an allegation made in relation to the non-reporting of a death within the required time frame. I can advise the ongoing investigation by ORI staff has confirmed the carcass was buried and not fed to lions, as was alleged by the Leader of the Greens at Estimates.

I asked, 'Has ORI actually seen the carcass?', and the minister replied, 'That is my advice; they have confirmed it was buried'.

Madam Speaker, on 12 June in parliament the minister came in and confirmed that the Office of Racing Integrity had confirmed that the carcass was buried. Because we had so little information, on 18 July this year I again wrote to the minister and said that I wanted an update on the ORI investigation and that the information we had did not align with the statements made by the minister and ORI. This morning before we sat I received a response from the Minister for Racing, which makes it clear. It said:

I can assure you that both the Tasmanian Government and the Office of Racing Integrity take any allegation of mistreatment or wrongdoing very seriously when it pertains to the welfare of animals.

This is the kicker paragraph:

I can confirm that the carcass of A Loan Again was exhumed from the Zoodoo property on Sunday 9 June 2019 for the purpose of identifying the body via its body markings and freeze brand. The body was confirmed by both Racing Integrity and stewards manager Mr Anthony Latham and the ORI regulatory veterinarian as being A Loan Again NZ. No autopsy was performed as ORI did not deem it necessary following the visual inspection verifying identification.

Madam Speaker, this is deceit by omission, because on 12 June the minister knew that the carcass had been located at Zoodoo, which is exactly where we said it had been sent. On 12 June the minister came into this House and knowingly withheld that information which confirmed that the horse was dumped at Zoodoo. We have a statement here from Zoodoo at the time we raised this that says it has nothing to do with Zoodoo. Then Ms Donna Cuttriss-Smith says:

I can confirm that Zoodoo has not received the racehorse as a meat supply for our carnivores. The allegations being made are false.

The allegation was actually partly true. We were told it had gone to Zoodoo. There are lions at Zoodoo and we know, according to the owners of Zoodoo, that horsemeat has been fed to the lions. So we have the owner of Zoodoo withholding information because by that stage surely they knew the horse had been dumped in one of the kill pits on their property, and then we have the Minister for Racing running cover for a commercial zoo. There has been absolute deceit here from the Minister for Racing and an attempt to conceal by the owners of Zoodoo.

The question is, how often does this happen? Is it common knowledge in the horseracing industry, the pacing industry and the greyhound industry that if you have a dead animal on your hands you can take it to Zoodoo? We have spoken to former staff who have raised very serious concerns about the number of animals that are taken to Zoodoo and disposed of in the kill pits. We have spoken to a former staff member who has seen greyhound carcasses in the kill pits. We need much more transparency from the Minister for Racing and we need a response from the Minister for Primary Industries and Water who is responsible for the animal welfare inspectorate in Tasmania.

What I hear today is that the Minister for Racing is demanding that I apologise to Zoodoo and to the Office of Racing Integrity. Well, no, because we know that horse was dumped at Zoodoo and that the owner of Zoodoo was at best mistaken when she said it had nothing to do with Zoodoo and, at worst, deliberately misleading. How often does this happen? Is that where the industry takes animals that are past their use-by date? There is no transparency about this and it is very possible that what we are dealing with here is the tip of the iceberg. Before I sit down I seek the leave of the House to table Ms Archer's letter to me.

Leave granted.

Ms O'CONNOR - Thank you, Madam Speaker, and for context I will add the letter I wrote to the minister.