Equine welfare and British Horseracing / 19 Sep 14

Welfare

The British Horseracing Authority and Dr. Peter Webbon, former Chief Executive of the Animal Health Trust, today made the following statements in regards to the high standards of equine welfare within British Horseracing.

Jenny Hall, Chief Veterinary Officer for the British Horseracing Authority, said:

“The sad incident involving Wigmore Hall was the only fatality at Doncaster racecourse’s Flat racing course this year from 1,563 runners.

“The first priority in British Racing is always the welfare of its competitors, both human and equine. The team of Veterinary Surgeons were at Wigmore Hall’s side in moments after the injury. The vets were able to make an immediate assessment of the Wigmore Hall’s condition and in this case the diagnosis was made that the injury was untreatable and so the correct course of action for Wigmore Hall’s welfare was for him to be humanely put down.

“The highest standards of horse welfare are demanded of all jockeys, trainers and racecourses and none of the 1,450 fixtures held annually in Britain can take place unless key equine welfare criteria have been satisfied. British Racing’s welfare standards far exceed existing animal welfare legislation.

“Over the last 15 years, the equine fatality rate in British Racing has fallen by one-third, from just over 0.3% to just over 0.2% of runners. In recent years the average number of runners per year is in excess of 90,000. Horses are at risk of serious injury throughout their lives, regardless of the type of equestrian activity they participate in, even when turned out in a field, exercising at home or doing what they were bred to do, namely racing on the track.”

Dr. Peter Webbon, former Chief Executive of the Animal Health Trust, said:

“When it comes to horse welfare, British Racing has a track record to be proud of and British Racing is among the world’s best regulated animal activities. The British Horseracing Authority (BHA) is the Government recognised body responsible for the regulation of horseracing and together with the RSPCA and World Horse Welfare, it is a leading signatory of the National Equine Welfare Protocol.

“Racehorses in Britain are among the healthiest and best looked after 2% of horses in the country. The sport employs over 6,000 people to provide first class care and attention for the 14,000 horses in training, providing them with a level of care and a quality of life that is virtually unsurpassed by any other domesticated animal.

“In exchange for these exceptional levels of care Racing asks thoroughbred racehorses to do what they are bred to do, which is race. Despite the best efforts of all involved, as with participation in any sport involving speed and athleticism, there is an inherent risk of injury associated with this. British Racing is open and transparent about the level of risk involved, which has now been reduced to just 0.2% of all runners – a drop of around a third in the last 15 years.

“Horses are at risk of serious injury throughout their lives, regardless of the type of equestrian activity they participate in, even when turned out in a field, exercising at home or racing on the track. A study by Liverpool University found that 62% of “traumatic injuries” (ranging from grazes to fractures) suffered by a sample of leisure and competition horses occurred when turned out in the field, compared to only 13% during ridden exercise. The British Horse Society also estimates that there are over 3,000 road accidents annually involving horses. Stopping racing would not remove or substantially reduce the risk of injury to horses.

“However, if racing were to be stopped there would be catastrophic consequences for the thoroughbred racehorse as a breed as well as for the rural economy. There would also be knock-on implications for the entire horse population. British Racing is committed to providing the best possible standards of veterinary care for its horses and has invested over £25 million since 2000 in Veterinary Research and Education, and the sport’s substantial investment in Veterinary Research and Education brings benefits for all breeds of horse in Britain.”

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