Explosive investigation exposes brutal slaughter of thousands of healthy racehorses

Warning: Graphic. One of the biggest names in horse racing has responded with disgust at hidden camera footage of racehorse abuse.
If you need to watch the 0:48min VIDEO: WATCH AT SOURCE

By Shannon Molloy (*) - ABC - 18. October 2019

Racehorses sent to their death in Australia

Warning: Graphic content

Thousands of healthy thoroughbred racehorses are being shipped to their brutal deaths at abattoirs where many are mistreated before being inhumanely killed for meat for human consumption.

An explosive report on ABC program 7.30 last night blew the lid on the “industrial scale” destruction of an enormous number of animals from Australia’s $1 billion horse racing industry.

It’s a practice that regulation should prevent, and which NSW Racing insists doesn’t occur, but secretly captured vision tells a very different and horrific story.

And the report has had an immediate impact.

One of the biggest names in racing, Hall of Fame trainer Lee Freedman, tweeted his disgust at what he saw on the show last night.

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

At one abattoir in southeast Queensland over a 22-day period, more than 300 race horses representing $5 million in prize money won were killed.

At that rate, it would equate to around 4000 thoroughbreds destroyed at one facility alone.

In graphic and hard-to-watch vision, 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!”

One of the thoroughbreds captured on video at the abattoir is War Ends — a horse well-known in racing circles, having won more than $400,000.

War Ends is shown being repeatedly abused by an abbatoir 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”.

Racing Australia CEO Barry O’Farrell told ABC News this morning the program showed “appalling” practices.

“(State racing CEO) 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,” he said. “Of course we condemn it.”

Paul McGreevey, Professor of Animal Behaviour and Welfare Science at the University of Sydney, watched the harrowing footage with 7.30 reporter Caro Meldrum-Hanna.

“Obviously that horse took a while to die. It would have suffered,” Professor McGreevey said of one death.

Thousands of thoroughbred racehorses are being sent for slaughter — many abused and inhumanely killed — despite rules preventing just that.

Thousands of thoroughbred racehorses are being sent for slaughter — many abused and inhumanely killed — despite rules preventing just that.Source:ABC

Serious questions have been raised about the welfare of racehorses, with thousands winding up in slaughterhouses.

Serious questions have been raised about the welfare of racehorses, with thousands winding up in slaughterhouses.Source:ABC

Of another, Prof McGreevey observed: “Well, the horse appeared to blink, which is a suggestion that, a strong suggestion that it is conscious. And that’s, that’s very troubling. That shouldn’t be permitted at all.”

Dozens of horses were shown being killed back-to-back in vision from covertly installed cameras. Their distinct branding links them back to major studs.

One horse had to be bolted in its head five times before it eventually died.

“We’re talking about destroying horses on an industrial scale. We’re seeing animals suffering,” Prof McGreevey said.

“Clearly there’s no excuse for that sort of treatment. That’s not acceptable, of course it isn’t and it’s disgusting.”

Just weeks out from the Melbourne Cup, the disturbing revelations are set to rock the industry to its core. The investigation is two years in the making.

In the wake of the NSW Government’s short-lived ban on greyhound racing, the horse racing industry in the state vowed to take a proactive stance on welfare.

NSW Racing chief executive officer Peter V’landys announced at the time that every single racehorse domiciled in the state would be rehomed at retirement.

“We’re not going to stop once the horse has been given to somebody else,” Mr V’landys told reporters then about the sector’s bold plan.

“We’re going to expand it to the next level, where we want to know if the horse is having a good retirement.”

Thousands of horses are being sent for slaughter despite rules preventing it. The explosive 7.30 report will rock the racing industry to its core.

Thousands of horses are being sent for slaughter despite rules preventing it. The explosive 7.30 report will rock the racing industry to its core.Source:ABC

But as the 7.30 report revealed, that’s not happening.

Many of the horses from NSW sent interstate for slaughter — a clear breach of regulations — were still officially listed as being active in racing, the investigation found.

Others were listed in the official database as having been retired or rehomed, but instead wound up being slaughtered.

At the southeast Queensland abattoir, the resulting horse meat is exported to lucrative markets in Europe, Russia and Japan.

Serious questions have been raised about the welfare of racehorses, with thousands winding up in slaughterhouses.

Serious questions have been raised about the welfare of racehorses, with thousands winding up in slaughterhouses.Source:ABC

In an interview with Meldrum-Hanna, Mr V’landys insisted that “zero” horses from NSW were ending up at abattoirs or knackeries — facilities that turn animals into pet meat.

“Because it is against the rules of racing,” he said.

When asked if he was sure the figure was zero, Mr V’landys responded: “Yes, absolutely.”

The investigation also found that a number of racehorses are being sold at auctions and sent to knackeries.

Coalition for the Protection of Racehorses campaigner Elio Celotto described the scenes in the vision from the abattoir in question as barbaric.

He said if people knew what was going on.

“I don’t think we’d be getting 100,000 people going to the Melbourne Cup,” he said.

War Ends is one of the horses that wound up being slaughtered.

War Ends is one of the horses that wound up being slaughtered.Source:ABC

An abattoir worker abuses the champion War Ends.

An abattoir worker abuses the champion War Ends.Source:ABC

In its annual reporting, Racing Australia insists less than one per cent of racehorses retired from the industry are sent to abattoirs each year, and only in circumstances that are unavoidable.

On that figure, the number of horses slaughtered each year should be just 34.

“That’s what the industry is assuring us of,” Prof McGreevey said. “More than that is killed in one week at this one abattoir alone.

“The figures don’t add up. If my concerns are substantiated, then we’re talking about a large number of horses that are meeting a very grisly end.”

The “black hole” of missing horses is at least 4000, he believes.

Thoroughbred racehorses awaiting their slaughter.

Thoroughbred racehorses awaiting their slaughter.Source:ABC

The investigation raises serious concerns about the practices in place and the lack of oversight when it comes to animal welfare.

Prof McGreevey said the reality is that far too many horses are being bred, out of the desire of hopeful owners and trainers to produce the next big Melbourne Cup winner.

In the last financial year, 14,000 foals were produced in Australia.

“It’s not sustainable at the moment,” he said.

An abattoir worker kicks horses while they await their slaughter.

An abattoir worker kicks horses while they await their slaughter.Source:ABC

The horrifying vision shows racehorses being routinely abused and mistreated.

The horrifying vision shows racehorses being routinely abused and mistreated.Source:ABC

Mr V’landys said that if people have broken the rules, NSW Racing will 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.”

But Prof McGreevey said the industry has let down “a lot of people — and a lot of horses”.

“When we bet on horses, we are interacting with this industry, and we deserve better, the horses deserve better, and people who love the industry deserve better.

“There is a massive question mark over the regulator, and the problem of self-regulation comes into play yet again. This is the sort of material that will shake the industry to the core.”

(*) Author:

Shannon Molloy

 

The dark side of the horse racing industry - ABC 7.30 (17.10.2019)

A special investigation into the horse racing industry reveals what really goes on when racehorses' lives end in knackeries and abattoirs.

 

The dark side of Australia's horse racing industry | 7.30

 

A special investigation into the horse racing industry reveals what really goes on when racehorses' lives end in knackeries and abattoirs.

 

Horse slaughter: irresponsibility and hypocrisy on all sides have brought us here

The public recoils, although sheep and cows are killed in identical fashion. But the racing industry has a serious case to answer too

By  - @callapilla  - 

Horses at the Meramist abattoir in Caboolture, Queensland Horses at the Meramist abattoir in Caboolture, Queensland, which is under investigation after disturbing footage was aired on the ABC. Photograph: Jono Searle/EPA

The biggest trucks at any horse sale belong to the meat dealers. At the end of the day, once those awarded a second chance have been led away, the dealers open the remaining pens and run their unlucky purchases through the saleyard to the loading ramp.

Young, well-fed, well-muscled horses – such as thoroughbreds or standardbreds that have recently left the racing industries – are sent to export abattoirs in Peterborough, South Australia, or the Meramist abattoir in Caboolture, Queensland. The latter is currently being investigated for animal cruelty offences after footage aired on the ABC’s 7.30 program showed horses being shocked with electric prods, hit and kicked before slaughter.

The racing industry has reacted with shock and indignation, as has the public.

The censure from both extends not just to alleged breaches of animal welfare laws at the abattoir, which the Queensland government has said it will investigate, but to the mere fact of horses being slaughtered.

The slaughter of horses is legal in Australia and governed by the national standards that cover all animal slaughter, as well as industry codes of practice and state-based animal welfare legislation.

Export abattoirs such as Meramist must also comply with European Union rules around animal welfare, including those banning the use of the electric prodders on horses, and are required to have an Australian government vet on site while slaughter is taking place.

The RSPCA has called on the department to investigate whether all Australian standards were followed.

But while the slaughter of horses through methods identical to those used to slaughter cattle or sheep is ethically no different, it has caused significantly more upset.

For proof, look no further than the reaction to recent animal welfare protests at abattoirs. Some of the same state governments that scorned those protests have now called for an inquiry into horse deaths and what responsibility, if any, should be borne by the racing industry.

First, the racing industry must acknowledge that it cannot be absolved from responsibility for what happens to horses it bred for profit. It must also acknowledge statistics it puts forward about the fate of racehorses after retirement are at best misleading.

According to an estimate by the Coalition for the Protection of Racehorses, which undertook part of the 7.30 investigation, about 4,000 thoroughbreds a year were slaughtered at Meramist alone.

However, Racing Australia continues to state that less than 1% of all retired horses go to slaughter and another 1% are sent to livestock sales. Those proportions are set out in its annual report but the raw numbers are not stated. It also only records a horse’s first destination after it finishes racing, so if they are on-sold to slaughter it’s not tracked.

And everyone with even a passing knowledge of horses knows that once a horse retires from or fails at its original purpose, or the purpose for which it has been retrained, it is traded off as a depreciating asset, losing value and prospects with each transaction until another use can be found.

In short: the racing industry does not know where most horses end up.

That is why a Senate committee is investigating possible models for a national horse traceability register.

The inquiry is due to report in December, and followed a report by Guardian Australia in 2018 detailing a day at the saleyards in Echuca, in which 10 of the 33 horses of racing breeds (thoroughbred and standardbred) were bought by a buyer supplying the export abattoirs.

Without a national tracking system, Australia cannot hope to know how many horses of each type are slaughtered annually and how they ended up in the knocking box.

In South Korea, where at least 30% of Australian racehorses imported in the past five years have ended up in slaughter, as Guardian Australia reported in June, deaths are noted in the public racehorse database. In Australia, this information only comes to light in investigations by media or animal welfare groups.

The absence of a traceability scheme also leaves Australia vulnerable to biosecurity threats such as equine influenza. A 2007 outbreak cost the federal government $108m and proved that most recreational horse owners were unaware of requirements to inform authorities of all livestock on their property.

There is, in the submissions to the Senate inquiry, near universal support for the idea of a traceability scheme, provided someone else is paying for it. The federal government has spurned the responsibility. The racing industry, which is worth $9bn a year, says it ought not be their job to pay for a tool used to regulate the horse industry as a whole.

It is, after all, recreational horse owners who are responsible for most horses in Australia, including most of those that are put through sales, bred in irresponsibly high numbers, and subject to welfare complaints when they are neglected, or left to starve during drought.

The racing industry ought not be made the scapegoat for all those ills. But it also cannot make sweeping claims about racehorses not going to slaughter unless it makes a transparent and publicly accountable effort to track its own horses for the entirety of their hopefully long and happy retirements.

 

Read More:

Slaughter records reveal the grim fate of Australia's exported racehorses