Bernard's Blog - 23 August

Bernard Saundry
23 August 2019

As regular readers of the Blog will know, NZTR has spent a considerable amount of time working to develop our thoroughbred welfare guidelines.  The guidelines, which are on our website, went out for wider consultation in July, along with proposed rule changes which would support these guidelines,

Early in July we also emailed a letter to our database of owners which outlined the work we are doing in the area of welfare.  This letter included the following:

We want to ensure that you, as owners, are fully aware of the facts around welfare and the steps NZTR has taken over previous years and which it continues to take in this area:

·         A focus on the preparation and maintenance of tracks to provide consistent surfaces

·         Our active support of state-of-the-art horse ambulances being introduced nationwide to ensure immediate first-class attention can be provided in the event of an injury accident

·         Introduction of plastic running rails

·         Pre and post-race vetting of horses

·         Regular drug-testing

·         Use of the International Federation of Horseracing Authorities medication standards, which are the strictest in the world

·         On-going support of Massey University equine-specific studies.

The importance of animal welfare cannot be stressed enough, especially in a climate where we are dealing with animal rights groups, some of whom manipulate figures and provide these to media as fact.

Recently Radio NZ aired an interview with the NZ representative of the Australian-based Coalition for the Protection of Racehorses (CPR), which has a very poor record when it comes to telling the truth.

In this interview the representative of CPR made the astounding claim that our industry sent 2500 horses “to slaughter’ each year. 

Given our current foal crop of around 3300 and annual exports of 1700 this figure is patently ridiculous.

MPI does keep records of the number of horses killed at slaughter, although this does not go as far as to determine whether or not the animals are thoroughbreds by checking brands.  We did request the total figure from them, to at least give us some indication, and we are currently awaiting their response.

Following on from the Radio NZ interview NZTR was contacted by The Spinoff which wanted to address some of the questions raised in a media release they had received from the CPR, again including the claim of 2500 horses killed.

Despite its emotive introduction, the piece was relatively well-balanced, also seeking input from Massey University animal ethicist Professor Craig Johnson.  However, what this story, and the earlier RNZ piece, indicate is that our industry is under the microscope when it comes to our social licence to operate.

I would recommend all those involved in our industry becoming familiar with our welfare guidelines, and the supporting rules – which will come into force in November this year.  I believe we do a good job in this area, but there can always be improvement, and this is why we are working towards traceability from birth to death.

Those who are interested in finding out more about our focus on animal welfare should get along to Equidays in the Waikato.  NZTR will be conducting a seminar Equine Welfare & Traceability in the Thoroughbred industry on Friday 18 October at 1.15pm.


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