Harness racing to ban use of whips

Harness Racing Australia (HRA) announced on December 10 it would ban the use of whips in both racing and training from September 1 next year. This will make Australia the first country in the world to implement a ban on whips.

HRA chairman Geoff Want said the decision was taken for animal welfare reasons. "There is compelling evidence these days that society will not tolerate continued cruelty towards animals," he said.

Want said he believed some in the industry would resist change but "people are going to have to adapt to change".

He said HRA would undertake research to ensure safety when drivers do not have a whip to control unexpected horse movements

The RSPCA has welcomed the move to ban whips. RSCPA chief executive Heather Neil said she would like to see whips banned immediately, but understood it needed time.

"This decision to end the use of whips in racing sets a new path for harness racing but it also sends a very clear message to other racing codes in Australia and overseas that they should be following,” she said.

"I think this has just set the benchmark for everybody else and we certainly hope that the thoroughbred industry, who are also reviewing their whip rules right now, follow immediately afterwards.”

Horse welfare organisation Coalition for the Protection of Racehorses (CPR) has been lobbying Racing Australia for a number of years to end the use of the whip in thoroughbred racing, starting with the running of whip-free races.

With the HRA announcement, Elio Celotto, campaign director for CPR called on Racing Australia to introduce whip free races immediately. "The racing industry must understand that beating horses with the whip is as bad for the industry as it is for the horses. With every strike, punters and racegoers are turning away in favour of more humane sports. 

"The whip is an old-school instrument that epitomises workplace bullying of racehorses. It's time for Racing Australia to begin trialling whip-free races, and when the sky doesn't fall in, they will realise that this is the future of racing. It’s time for jockeys to develop their riding skills, instead of relying on a tool designed and used to cause pain and fear.”

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