The Dark Side Of Horse Racing - The Fallout

So last night we had the Panorama documentary The Dark Side Of Horse Racing broadcast on BBC1. My thoughts, for what they are worth, follow. 

Though promoted as The Dark Side Of Horse Racing as it became apparent very early on the programme was as much about the practices at the abattoir Drury & Sons as it was about the fate of retired racehorses and how they are treated after they finish racing. 
It did become clear that there are definite problems in Irish horse racing, as if they haven't enough to deal with at the moment already. In fact the programme concentrated entirely on ex-racehorses being transported from Ireland to be euthanised in the abattoir near Swindon - which seems an unnecessary journey it has to be said and raises questions as to why these horses were being sent on such a journey?  Sometimes, there is of course little choice and euthanasia is the kindest end for an injured or sick animal but it did appear this wasn't the case with all the horses and some, it appeared, could have possibly gone on to other activities once their racing career had finished. 

Already under a cloud to say the least since the image of him sitting astride the deceased Morgan leaked on to social media in February Gordon Elliott was front and centre again. It transpired that several horses that had been in his care during their racing career, subsequently sold to a horse dealer upon retirement, had ended up at the abattoir. Clearly some Trainers in Ireland need to reconsider who they sell retired racehorses to when they can no longer compete for whatever reason. I suppose the problem is a simple one, when money is involved most in business will look to insure a return on their investment wherever and however they can. Questions about the microchipping of racehorses were raised when it was revealed that the chip belonging to Chaser Tammys Hill had turned up in another horse at the abattoir five years after the gelding had died. This appeared to be a case of horse dealers trying to slip a horse into the human food chain that had the wrong paperwork. Therein lies another problem. Far from common practice in the UK, horse meat is eaten around the globe and for some of these horse dealers a retired thoroughbred racehorse is little more than a commodity to be bought and sold. 

It does appear, at least from the evidence in this programme, that horse racing here in the UK is dealing with equine welfare and the care of ex-racehorses as per guidelines and we can and should be proud of that.  As and when end-of life decisions are being considered these are also taking place in accordance with the euthanasia guidelines developed by the industry’s Horse Welfare Board. "Racing needs to ensure it has 100 per cent traceability of a horse's first step away from racing and a clear understanding of where these horses go" a BHA statement said and I think we would all agree with that statement. 

The full Press Release from the British Horse Racing Authority released after the programme was broadcast can be found here:

The National Trainers Federation statement can be viewed here: