‘Proud of our record, proud of our ambition’ says BHA as horse welfare strategy published

20 Feb 2020 BHA Features Welfare
  • Governing body welcomes industry’s commitment to a single welfare plan
  • ‘Pivotal moment’ for the sport to maintain public trust
  • Consultation to be held on whip rules & penalties
  • Any decisions ‘for racing to take’ as BHA commits to work with the sport

The British Horseracing Authority (BHA) has welcomed the publication of an industry-wide horse welfare strategy, A Life Well Lived, as a pivotal moment, which will see the industry and regulator working together in a new way to address the sport’s biggest challenges.

The strategy was commissioned and approved by the sport’s senior leaders, comprising the BHA, participants – including trainers, breeders, owners and jockeys – and the Racecourse Association (RCA), and written and produced by the independently-chaired Horse Welfare Board.

The Horse Welfare Board’s strategy document can be found here

Whilst the BHA will be responsible for some of the recommendations, the whole industry will have a part to play. The strategy calls for unity and for the whole sport to take responsibility for its delivery.

The BHA has committed to draw up an implementation plan which will prioritise, fund and resource the various projects involved which relate to the sport’s regulatory and governing body. We look forward to working closely with the industry’s participants on the delivery of this strategy and will also draw on the substantial wealth of knowledge that exists at external bodies, such as our colleagues at World Horse Welfare and the RSPCA.

Nick Rust, Chief Executive of the British Horseracing Authority (BHA), said:

“I am proud of the work already done by the sport, including our own team of vets and officials, to give our horses the best possible quality of life. Our sport’s record in making racing safer for horses and jockeys is the result of many people working together for a common purpose. The BHA’s role in self-regulation of racing has been endorsed by the Welfare Board as it has by government.

“When I saw the scale of the Welfare Board’s ambition, I was even more proud. Racing people want the very best for our horses. We would love more people outside our sport to understand just how much we put into keeping horses safe and allowing them to enjoy the quality of life that goes with being an equine athlete.

“I know our sport has been frustrated at times because it feels not enough has been done to speak up for racing. I firmly believe that the strategy gives us a platform to talk about all the good things we do with pride and confidence. That is why it is a pivotal moment, an opportunity to show that we can be trusted to do the right thing for our horses.

“We believe horses have a special place in our national life and racing a special place in our tradition and culture. We celebrate our horses as champions and partners. We look after the safety of our jockeys and horses.”

The BHA Board has accepted all the recommendations from the Horse Welfare Board, including a consultation on the rules and penalties for misuse of a whip when riding and an increase in penalties as a minimum. The BHA supports the Welfare Board’s view that the scale of the task of educating all of racing’s existing, potential and future customers means that it is not feasible to simply persuade the public to accept the current position.

The consultation will be wide-ranging and cover topics such as penalties for whip offences, and what defines acceptable use. The BHA will not support any particular outcome during the consultation, beyond the requested increase in penalties.

The consultation will be open, allowing all interested parties to express a view, in line with the approach taken by government and other regulators. All opinions will be taken into account, but the BHA is aware that an open consultation needs to be appropriately managed, and overall this is a decision for Racing to take.

The BHA aims to meet the Horse Welfare Board’s request that changes be in place by October 2020.

The BHA’s Chief Regulatory Officer, Brant Dunshea, will lead the consultation process, and the BHA is committed to working closely with key stakeholders throughout.

Brant Dunshea said:

“The Horse Welfare Board has made clear recommendations and we will proceed with a consultation following appropriate engagement with stakeholders in order to finalise the Terms of Reference. I am delighted to be able to draw on the expertise of people who have a long experience of racing in this regard.

“This is a wide-ranging debate covering a number of different elements about how the whip is used. None of us wants the way we use the whip to be an issue of public or political concern so we’d like an outcome that is safe, fair, understood and accepted. We don’t want to have to return to this issue, and would prefer to focus on the rest of the welfare programme and ensuring a prosperous and sustainable future for our sport.

“The Welfare Board has recognised that openness and transparency play an important part in building public trust. With that in mind and having looked at how other regulators and government consult, this will be an open consultation in which all views can be taken into account. However, it is not simply a vote. Any decisions are for racing to take.

“The BHA is already working with our partners in the sport to ensure that all can have confidence in the consultation. We will be providing more details in the coming weeks.”

Notes to Editors

  1. The Horse Welfare Board’s Welfare strategy can be downloaded here.
  2. The recommendations and key projects can be found here.
  3. A short summary document can be found here
  4. More information on safety in British horseracing can be found here.
  5. More information on the whip can be found here.