Trainer couldn’t watch inhumane horse slaughter
LEADING trainer Danny O'Brien said he was so appalled the brutal scenes shown on Thursday's 7.30 Report that he had to switch it off.
O'Brien suggested racing authorities should stipulate that thoroughbreds should be banned from the abattoirs.
"They've laid the groundwork with the tracking of thoroughbreds, but maybe the rule has to be as stringent as thoroughbreds are banned from them," he said.
His comments came in response to a shocking ABC report on Thursday night that has rocked the racing industry, with secretly captured vision showing healthy horses being shipped off to their death.
While official figures claim less than 1 per cent of retired horses (around 34 per year) end up in an abattoir, Thursday night's report on 7.30 alleged that number might run into the hundreds or thousands.
The report claimed that more than 300 racehorses - representing $5 million in prize money - were killed in three weeks at one Queensland facility alone.
"The industry funds are there," O'Brien said. "I'd like to think the industry would get better.
"Why not have someone at each of these places to check on the horses to stop horses with thoroughbred brands going to these places.
"There's a lot of great stories in rehoming."
Fellow trainer David Hayes said the scenes were horrendous, cruel and barbaric.
"It was distressing. No one in the industry would be happy with what was shown," he said.
"The industry needs to sharpen its pencil. There's room for improvement in this area."
He said Lindsay Park had a strong rehoming program with horses retrained so they could be sold as riding horses.
"The problem is five, 10 years down the track we don't know where the horses end up."
Another trainer, Simon Zahra, said they had a staff member, Pippa Warman, who worked solely with horses who needed to be homed.
"We've got four yards which we keep for re-homers. They're not just for our stable. Other stables use them," Zahra said.
"We make sure all of our horses are well looked after when they retire."
Meanwhile, Victorian Racing Minister Martin Pakula has called for the Federal Government to expedite the introduction of a National Horse Traceability Register.
Racing Victoria chief executive Giles Thompson said this needed to be introduced urgently, as a better system to track the movement of racehorses once they've left the industry was needed.
A Senate inquiry is examining the feasibility of being able to register all horses and track their movements from birth to death.
Mr Pakula said he expected agriculture authorities in Queensland would investigate the shocking incident.
"The footage from the Queensland abattoir was shocking, and no doubt agriculture authorities in that state will be investigating as a matter of urgency," Pakula said.
"The overwhelming majority of retired racehorses are rehomed, but it's not possible for racing authorities to track the movement of those horses long after they have retired from racing - often after they have been rehomed multiple times.
"That's why the establishment of a National Horse Traceability Register is important.
"Racing Australia has made it clear to the Commonwealth, via a Senate Inquiry, that it backs a National Horse Traceability Register - for all horses in Australia - and Victoria supports them in calling for that reform."
Mr Pakula also said the racing industry needed to assess the number of horses being bred.
In graphic and hard-to-watch vision on the ABC, many of the horses were shown being abused by abattoir workers - whipped, kicked and punched, and electric prods used on their genitalia and anuses.
"Come on you dumb f---ing horse!" a worker is heard screaming at one animal.
"F---! You're dead! You are dead!"
The vision shocked viewers, including leading racing figures.
The report comes on the eve of one of the spring carnival's biggest race days - the Caulfield Cup in Melbourne and The Everest in Sydney.
I am broken hearted at the ABC report. If we don’t make real changes the court of public opinion will bury racing.— Lee Freedman (@freedman_lee) October 17, 2019
I think I’ll have nightmares forever after seeing these poor defenceless horses be tormented in these abattoirs. How can these people working there sleep at night, and how can @abc730 film these horses and leave them there once they’ve got there footage. I feel so sick. https://t.co/SXJqJ7JR62— Jamie lee kah (@jamieleekah07) October 18, 2019
As distressing as the @abc730 report was..and it was sickening..I'd rather know about it than not know. Everyone who loves horses should know that there is a minority of sick, cruel people who should be expunged from all horse pursuits. Lots has been achieved but more is required— Richard Freedman (@R1CHARDFREEDMAN) October 17, 2019
Had a non racing client in this morning and he saw the footage. His 80 years old and started crying in my salon as he desribed what he saw and asked is this what i do with my horses once they stop racing. It’s heartbreaking . https://t.co/W9MTkuxCOP— Tony Ferraro (@tonyferraro3) October 18, 2019
Champion veteran racehorse trainer Lee Freedman said he had been left "brokenhearted".
"I am brokenhearted at the ABC report," he said.
"If we don't make real changes the court of public opinion will bury racing."
One of the thoroughbreds captured on video at the abattoir was War Ends - a horse well-known in racing circles, and the winner of more than $400,000.
War Ends was shown being repeatedly abused by an abattoir worker, who calls the animal a "f---ing stupid c---" before he bolts it and then kicks it in the head while it lays dead on the slaughterhouse floor.
Jockey Laura Cheshire wrote that she had "failed" War Ends after watching her passed "on and on and on".
Pakula pointed out there were one million horses alive at any time.
He said no one had claimed that horses didn't end their lives at the knackery.
He said the objective of the racing industry was to make sure that didn't happen, but after a period of time the line of sight as to what horses were doing was lost.
Mr Pakula said in Victoria, abattoirs were regulated by PrimeSafe.
Racing Victoria chief executive Giles Thompson said he was sickened by the horrific images.
"Abattoirs and knackeries are regulated by state governments and we expect those authorities to ensure animal welfare standards are maintained and compliance is strictly enforced. We expect anyone breaching those laws to be prosecuted," Thompson said.
Thompson said equine welfare was one of the key planks of the Australian racing industry and it was a priority to ensure that every healthy thoroughbred who exited the industry would be looked after.
He said RV's Off The Track program had created a demand for the thoroughbred and they had 50 "re-trainers" supporting this.
As a trainer l have no idea were the 1% of prize money is spent l know it goes into equine welfare but we don’t get told in what areas the funding is spent obviously the abattoirs need to overhauled that was horrific viewing l just feel sick #weneedtodomore— Pat Cannon (@Patcannonracing) October 17, 2019
Thoroughbred Breeders Victoria is also sickened by the images portrayed on the ABC program.
TBV condemned the inhumane treatment of horses shown in the program.
"I am extremely saddened to see the way horses have been treated in the footage aired last night," said Charmein Bukovec, executive officer of TBV.
"Anyone who has mistreated any horse, whether thoroughbred or not, should have the full force of the law brought down upon them.
Racing Australia chief executive Barry O'Farrell told ABC News this morning the program showed "appalling" practices.
"(State racing CEOs) are doing everything they can just to ensure the sport of racing thrives and flourishes, but also that responsibility for equine welfare is as high as possible within their jurisdictions," O'Farrell said. "Of course we condemn it."
Coalition for the Protection of Racehorses campaigner Elio Celotto described the scenes in the vision from the abattoir in question as barbaric.
NSW Racing chief executive officer Peter V'landys said that if people had broken the rules, NSW Racing would deal with them "pretty swiftly".
"We'll put the full force of the rules of racing against anyone who does that because it's a severe breach of our rules and our terms and conditions of being in the thoroughbred racing industry," he said.
- with news.com.au