Racing industry responds to confronting footage aired on the ABC 7.30 Report

The ABC's 7.30 Report leaked footage from a Queensland abattoir which showed former racehorses branded with the markings of many recognisable Hunter Valley studs. Source: 7.30 / ABC
The ABC's 7.30 Report leaked footage from a Queensland abattoir which showed former racehorses branded with the markings of many recognisable Hunter Valley studs. Source: 7.30 / ABC

LAST year, it was estimated that more than 14,000 thoroughbred foals were born in Australia.

From that crop, one in every two racehorses are born in the Hunter Valley, which is internationally renowned as Australia's horse breeding capital.

However the reality is that not all of them will become stars on the racetrack, like champion mare Winx, who won 33 consecutive races including 25 Group Ones until she was sent to stud in April this year.

The Australian thoroughbred industry is worth $9 billion and provides more than 70,000 full time jobs however, despite the fact that tens of millions of dollars have been spent on re-homing retired racehorses, and Racing NSW rules prohibit ex-racehorses being sent to slaughter, hundreds of Australian racehorses are being still being slaughtered each year, according to a recent investigation by the ABC.

An ABC 7.30 Report aired on Thursday night revealed what happens when some retired racehorses slip through the gaps and their lives end in knackeries and abattoirs.

The report claimed that one Queensland abattoir, Meramist Abattoir in Caboolture, had slaughtered up to 300 racehorses in just 22 days, and that dozens of former racehorses had been tracked to NSW knackeries to be used in pet food.

The ABC report stated that many interstate horses were ending up at the Meramist Abattoir with hidden camera vision showing former racehorses being kicked, dragged, shocked and slaughtered.

The thoroughbred racing industry has been quick to respond to the shocking and extremely graphic vision, aired by the ABC, which sent shock-waves through the breeding and racing community.

Racing NSW has called upon the Queensland Government and Department of Primary Industries to take the strongest possible action against the alleged perpetrators of such cruelty.

Racing NSW Chief Executive Peter V'landys unequivocally condemned the alleged abhorrent actions of the Meramist Queensland Abattoir.

He said the vision was "sickening" and "horrendous" and "such conduct and any mistreatment of horses is not tolerated in the NSW Thoroughbred Racing Industry".

"Racing NSW is the only state in Australia that has a Rule of Racing that prohibits horses from being sent to a knackery or abattoir if they have been predominantly domiciled in the NSW Thoroughbred Racing Industry," he said.

"Further, in NSW it is illegal for an abattoir to process a horse for human consumption, unlike other states."

In a statement, Racing Australia has called out for the need for a national horse register to trace horses.

"A National Traceability Register for All Horses would provide federal and state animal welfare authorities access to ownership and location information for these thoroughbreds.

"This matter is currently being considered by a senate committee. While racing authorities keep track of the owners and locations of thoroughbreds during their careers, that is not true for most horses across Australia.

"A National Horse Register would fill this gap, allow federal and state authorities access to ownership and location information and help improve equine welfare outcomes nationally.

"It could also further strengthen Australia's bio-security regime which is critical in reducing the risk of exotic disease and pest outbreaks."

The Australian Veterinary Association (AVA) has called upon the Australian government to implement a nationwide welfare standard and register to protect the welfare of all horses.

President of the AVA Equine Veterinarians Australia (EVA) Group, Dr Sam Nugent, said as veterinarians, the group found the treatment of the horses in the leaked video footage highly distressing.

"The AVA would like to see all parties involved in these illegal practices held accountable for their abhorrent actions," he said.

"Abattoirs and knackeries that are breaching animal cruelty laws, as well as horse racing authorities that are not enforcing their own welfare rules for post-career horses, need to be held accountable.

"Breaches of animal welfare cannot be tolerated."