Raceform column

Martin Burns, NZTR GM Welfare & Sustainability
3 June 2022

NZTR hosted its third annual Thoroughbred Welfare Forum in Cambridge on Tuesday which was attended by a diverse cross section of various racing industry sectors; partner organisations; researchers; and external organisations with responsibilities under the Animal Welfare Act.

With last year’s Forum conducted purely online due to Covid impacting travel it was good to get together in person with the 30-odd participants who attended in person.  There was also a strong representation online, consisting of those overseas, isolating due to Covid or otherwise unable to travel.

The Forum was planned as an opportunity for NZTR to receive objective and varied viewpoints from participants, while also challenging our thinking thanks to some inspired presentations.

The gathering was initially addressed by Dr Helen Beattie of Veterinarians for Animal Welfare Aotearoa (VAWA), Dr Gwyneth Verkerk from the National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee (NAWAC), and Mike Clements from the Racing Integrity Board (RIB). 

Dr Beattie spoke of the Welfare Worm and how this can be used to reflect the positives and negatives of the different stages of a horse’s life.  Participants were challenged to consider how society might view those different stages and whether their views might differ from those who live and breathe the racing industry.

It was certainly mind-expanding to step outside of our industry-blinkered view and consider another opinion and, in doing so, discover what might be our blind spots regarding welfare within the industry.

The afternoon included a thought-provoking session with Dr Anne Galloway, director of the More-Than-Human Lab.  I certainly found a lot to unpack from the day and it was encouraging that, before the flight back to Wellington had even departed, I was fielding positive emails from attendees.

We were grateful to have representatives from the New Zealand Owners’ Federation, NZ Trainers’ Association, NZ Jockeys’ Association and NZ Thoroughbred Breeders’ Association present and contributing so enthusiastically.  The feedback has continued to arrive, and most have agreed that the speakers involved in the day definitely stretched their minds and encouraged them to view welfare from a different angle.

One thing which was most apparent was that we are all in this industry due to our love of the animal and it is perhaps timely to mention the launch of LOVERACING.NZ’s latest video series later this month.  For the Love of the Racing features industry participants and provides an insight into why they do, what they do.

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