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.