The BBC’s Panorama programme has tonight broadcast pictures which, it suggests, show horses, including former racehorses, being euthanised in circumstances which may have harmed their welfare. They also reported that some of the horses had been transported from Ireland to a British abattoir.
No one in racing, and no one who loves horses, wants to see them caused distress or suffering at the end of their lives. If there has been a departure from approved abattoir practices and the welfare of the horses involved has been compromised, it is important this is addressed as a matter of urgency. This includes transporting horses over long distances to an abattoir, especially if these have injuries, which is not acceptable under the British racing industry’s guidelines for euthanasia.
The Food Standards Agency, which regulates abattoirs, is responsible for maintaining standards of animal welfare. We would support them if they decide there is evidence of mistreatment of animals which requires investigation, given the public concern that may arise from this programme
The British racing industry, and the 7000 and more staff who look after our horses day-in, day-out, across Britain, are proud of the unparalleled standards of love, care, attention, and respect our horses receive. Where end-of life decisions are being considered, we want these to take place in accordance with the euthanasia guidelines developed by the industry’s Horse Welfare Board over the last 12 months. These aim to ensure that horses’ welfare is protected and that all available options for rehoming are examined.
Our sport has set out its wider approach to equine welfare in a strategy published in 2020, which the programme chose not to highlight. One of the core aspects of this strategy is collective lifetime responsibility, and the report identified the need to further enhance our record in the fields of aftercare and traceability.
Significant steps have already been taken since the publication of the strategy. They include:
- A review and recommendations for the funding of the aftercare sector;
- The introduction of euthanasia guidelines for the industry to assist owners and veterinarians in considering the appropriate veterinary and ethical issues when faced with painful end-of-life dilemmas;
- Improving traceability of racehorses, including greater use of digital passports to assist in tracking cross-border horse movements, and building greater data expertise within racing;
- The development of a £2.5m emergency COVID relief fund for thoroughbreds that risk falling into neglect. So far, this fund has not needed to be used.
The BHA and other leaders from the British racing industry, including the independently-chaired Horse Welfare Board, will be meeting tomorrow to consider further the issues raised by this programme. We will also be in contact our counterparts in Ireland.
Notes to editors:
1. More information about horse welfare in British racing, including what happens to horses after they leave the sport, can be found here: Horse welfare in British racing – The British Horseracing Authority
2. The Horse Welfare Board’s strategy – “A Life Will Lived” – can be found here: WELFARE_STRATEGY.pdf (britishhorseracing.com)
3. Details of the review and recommendations for the funding of the aftercare sector: Horse Welfare Board’s ‘Aftercare Funding Review’ recommends strategic approach to aftercare in Britain, covering any horse bred for racing – The British Horseracing Authority
4. British racing’s Euthanasia guidelines: EUTHANASIA_GUIDELINES.pdf (britishhorseracing.com)
5. Information about Retraining of Racehorses (ROR), the sport’s centrally funded charity which aims to develop longer‐term, sustainable solutions to the question of what happens to horses when they finish racing: Retraining of Racehorses (ror.org.uk)
6. The full statement provided to the producers prior to the show by the BHA is as follows:
“British horseracing has demonstrated a clear commitment to improving already high standards of care for racehorses with the publication of a detailed strategy last year, which considers the welfare and safety of horses before, during and after racing. We encourage people to read it.
“The BHA has not been given any evidence by the programme-makers to suggest that the welfare of any British-based thoroughbred horse has been compromised. Nevertheless, we will consider carefully any issues raised”.