Leading owner Lloyd Williams has called for immediate action to be taken as the racing industry reckons with the scandal surrounding the mistreatment of its animals.
His appeal comes as Australia’s agriculture ministers prepare to urgently discuss the welfare of retired racehorses following an ABC report into Queensland slaughterhouses.
In the video above: Bruce McAvaney’s heartfelt plea
The report showed footage of workers at a Meramist abattoir north of Brisbane tormenting horses before they were killed.
The sickening vision has put pressure on the industry at the start of the spring racing carnival, with the welfare of all animals at the centre of numerous discussions.
In a heartfelt plea broadcast around Australia, commentator and small-time owner Bruce McAvaney said “we need to shine a spotlight on whatever might be lurking in the shadows”.
Williams, meanwhile, said the sport needs to save itself by acting on a divisive issue not out of sight but witnessed during each and every race.
“Australia needs to be at the forefront and withdraw the whip,” the six-time Melbourne Cup winner told News Corp.
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“If we are not proactive, the industry will be lucky to survive. If the industry doesn’t do something, it will be done for them.
“The world has changed. The whip has to go.”
Jockeys in Australia have unlimited use of the whip in the final 100 metres of races in addition to a maximum of five uses prior to that point.
Welfare on government agenda
Federal Agriculture Minister Bridget McKenzie said the issue would be a top priority at Friday’s meeting with her counterparts in Melbourne.
“It’s really important that we have a discussion as the country’s agriculture ministers about how we adopt and practice world’s best animal welfare standards,” she told a Senate estimates hearing in Canberra on Tuesday.
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk on Tuesday announced an inquiry into oversight of retired racehorses and operation of facilities accepting horses for slaughter.
‘The world has changed. The whip has to go’
Senator McKenzie said the vision was horrific, noting animal welfare was a state government responsibility.
Under questioning from Greens senator Mehreen Faruqi, the agriculture minister said she hadn’t watched the full report aired on 7.30.
But Senator McKenzie rejected claims she was not taking the matter seriously, arguing elevating the issue at the ministerial meeting showed it was a priority.
Senator Faruqi implored her to watch the full report.
“I was bawling my eyes out for the full 40 minutes, as were people across Australia,” she said.
Agriculture deputy secretary Malcolm Thompson said the department’s on-plant vet had raised concerns about animal welfare over the state of horses presenting for slaughter at Meramist.
He said the concerns were referred to authorities in Queensland, with states responsible for animal welfare while the federal department’s role is limited to export abattoirs.
“Consistent with the department’s responsibilities, we are conducting a critical incident audit of the facility at the centre of recent footage depicting the mistreatment of horses,” it said in a statement.
The department will produce a preliminary report this week before determining any regulatory action which could be taken.
‘I was bawling my eyes out for the full 40 minutes’
Queensland authorities have requested the footage from the ABC to help work out when the incidents took place.
“The department urges anyone with evidence or concerns about animal welfare to immediately report it to the relevant state jurisdiction,” the statement said.
– with AAP