LAST UPDATED: 10 October 2017
For centuries, racehorses have been whipped by jockeys in the belief that these ‘thick skinned’ animals need ‘encouragement’ to run faster, and ultimately to win races for their human owners.
In more recent years, the outdated and cruel practice of beating exhausted horses across the finish line has angered many Australians. During an interview for ABC's Catalyst, Racing Australia’s former chief executive, Peter McGauran conceded that if there was evidence that horses were hurt by whips, then “of course, we would do away with the whip.”
Well, the science has spoken: whips hurt.
Watch ABC’s Catalyst to hear the outcome from recent studies on whipping, straight from the horse's mouth:
Experts have called into question the use of whips in horse racing after studies have shown;
- Horses’ skin is not only thinner than that of a human, but may be more sensitive to pain
- Whipping horses is “likely to be painful”
- Despite the introduction of a modified padded whip in 2009, horses are still being struck in sensitive areas with the non-padded knot of the whip
- Even when the padded whip is being used according to new guidelines, it is still likely to cause the horse pain
Importantly, the University of Sydney veterinary pathologist and forensics researcher Dr Lydia Tong – who revealed that horse’s flank skin is not only thinner, but potentially more sensitive to pain than a humans – pointed out that, as prey animals, horses have evolved to hide their pain rather than react to it.
So, despite the common claim by supporters of whip use that horses do not react, baulk or ‘shift course’ in response to being whipped – this does not indicate that they are not in pain, but may rather indicate that they simply learned to tolerate it.
Update: Horse Racing industry says banning the whip is "going too far"
July 2015: Racing Australia has introduced new whip rules that will limit the number of times a horse can be hit during a race from 10 times, to 5. That is — until the last one hundred metres of the race. During this last leg — when the horse is most tired — animals may be hit repeatedly in an effort to push them 'over the line'. Racing Australia CEO Peter McGauran has dismissed this clear abuse — which is quite literally flogging an exhausted animal — by saying that limiting the use of the whip during this time would be "going too far" and wouldn't be in the "interest of racing".
If you think it's time that decisions were made that were in the interests of horses — not in the profit-driven gambling industry — help stop these sensitive animals from suffering in silence by joining the calls to ban the use of whips in horse racing!