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Racing – Ex-Racing Horses

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Thursday, 26 November 2020

Tags: Greyhound Racing, Horse Racing

Ms O'CONNOR - Are you concerned about evidence of ex-racing horses being killed to feed greyhounds? I know about this because I was the chair of the parliamentary inquiry into the greyhound racing industry and we heard evidence from one particular and notorious trainer, I might say, who admitted that ex-racehorses are regularly shot to feed his greyhounds. As we know, Ulverstone Pet Food abattoir is a big sponsor of greyhound racing and it is owned by one of the major greyhound trainers. Horses are seen going in and they never come out, minister. Ulverstone Pet Food advertises its pet food as quality products for dogs and cats. The evidence, again, is that ex-racehorses are being fed to animals. Do you have concerns about this? Have you raised it? Do you understand what a problem it is?

Ms HOWLETT - I do. The recent investigation by the Office of Racing Integrity has identified the possible use of unregulated meat in the racing industry. Providers of pet meat must hold appropriate licences and be accredited under the Primary Produce Safety Act 2011. Accreditation is primarily aimed at food and safety and the prevention of disease. It is not an offence to humanly euthanise animals for pet meat; however, it is an offence to sell meat without the appropriate accreditation. Biosecurity Tasmania is undertaking an investigation which may result in proceedings under the Primary Produce Safety Act 2011.

This is an ongoing investigation and it is standard practice that Government will not be providing any further comment on this matter. John, would you like to add to those questions?

Mr KING - I don't have anything further to add.

Ms HOWLETT - We could certainly let Ms O'Connor know about harness and the traceability and what is being set up Australia-wide.

Mr KING - I am quite happy to comment on the retirement of horses.

Ms O'CONNOR - Not just harness.

Mr KING - Over the number of years there has been a lot of focus on the greyhounds in relation to retirement. There has been some really genuine movement in the industry and new rules introduced by Tasracing, in conjunction with ORI to really shine a spotlight on that and ensure trainers are making the best possible efforts to rehome. The national media, probably starting last year from what we saw in Queensland, has really moved that spotlight from the greyhounds onto the horses. As a result of the thoroughbred and the harness codes, at a national level, are reviewing all their retirement processes.

There is a number of committees led by industry looking at retirement processes and there is also a traceability working group led by government, and particularly the Victorian and Queensland agricultural sectors on traceability of all horses. We are involved in all that. The focus for our state is to ensure all the jurisdictions are coming on board together with whatever review and changes are made, because that is much more successful. There will be a higher success rate in policing any change in rules if they are national rules.

Ms O'CONNOR - I don't know, minister, if you watch Caro Meldrum-Hanna's absolutely heartbreaking report on the 7.30 Report last year about the fate of greyhounds and racehorses, a very significant number of whom are sent to abattoirs for slaughter and die the most horrifying deaths. I understand it is a tendency for government agencies and entities to want to wait for national reform and part of that is not taking something on at a state level. We could wait for 20 years for there to be real movement at a national level to make sure these beautiful horses are not being fed into a mincer. Are you prepared to take this on as an issue and to make sure there are some procedures in place, to prevent these animals from being sent to the abattoir as soon as they have stopped being profitable and start costing their trainers or owners money?

Ms HOWLETT - I thank the member for the question. Tasracing and ORI are working with national racing bodies to fully review these processes to ensure there is conformity across all jurisdictions.

Racing Australia has appointed Ms Karen Day as the new National Equine Welfare and Traceability Executive and she'll be liaising with all the states, including Tasmania, to help coordinate and promote best practice in animal welfare standards -

Ms O'CONNOR - With respect, I asked what you might do about it, and how at a state level we can better ensure the welfare of ex-racehorses and have some systems in place to make sure that it isn't so easy for someone to send them off to an abattoir.

Ms HOWLETT - We are certainly prepared, and we have committed to being involved in this working group. John, I'm hoping that as far as a traceability report and implementing that, it will be done sooner rather than later?

Ms O'CONNOR - Just before you go on and I'll wind up shortly. What we have are dead horses from the racing industry feeding greyhounds, many of which, once they stop going fast enough, invariably are euthanised or killed, because it's not a mercy killing. It's an industry that has a vicious cycle of cruelty at its heart. I just want to hear Mr King's clarification.

Mr KING - I think a real example might help here. There's genuine movement in the national bodies to improve and review the conditions on retirement. If I could give you an example around harness because they are the most progressed at the moment.

The entire review of the retirement process for the standardbred horse at the moment has been undertaken by the ex-CEO of Greyhounds Australasia, and a lot of the rules that have been implemented in greyhounds -

Ms O'CONNOR - It's not very reassuring, Mr King, but thank you, continue.

Mr KING - What I wanted to focus on is a lot of the rules for traceability around greyhounds is a lot more advanced than the equine industries at the moment and a lot of those rules have been suggested in a draft form at the moment to come across into the harness industry. One of those rules is stand-down periods that would prevent what you're suggesting happens at the moment where a horse is racing one day and potentially not racing the next and euthanised. Those things are real at the moment and there's a lot of movement in that space.

Ms HOWLETT - We've also just made available our Off the Track program as well to try to encourage thoroughbreds and standardbreds to be re-homed through pony clubs.