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Ex-racehorses to be re-homed rather than slaughtered under new Queensland plan

By state political reporter Allyson Horn

Posted Monday 10 February 2020 at 4:17 pm,

updated Monday 10 February 2020 at 6:38 pm

Queensland racehorse owners will have to prove they have tried to rehome their animals multiple times before they can apply to send them to slaughter, under recommendations set to be implemented by the State Government.

The overhaul in the treatment of retired racehorses is a key recommendation of an inquiry into the sector, after the ABC's 7.30 program revealed hundreds of the animals were being sent to slaughterhouses, in contravention of racing rules.

WARNING: This story contains images that are distressing

The independent inquiry, conducted by retired District Court judge Terry Martin, recommended boosting Queensland's Racing Integrity Commission (QRIC) to reduce the numbers of horses being sent to slaughter.

Abattoir to be last resort

QRIC, along with Racing Queensland, will also establish and run a re-homing scheme to ensure horses find a new life after racing retirement.

"It will require owners to make two genuine attempts to re-home the animal, before they can consider euthanasia," QRIC boss Ross Barnett said on Monday.

"After making two attempts, if they're unsuccessful, they will then have to put the horse up to the rehoming scheme.

"Only if that animal can't be accepted into the program will they then be able to give consideration to either having the animal humanely euthanised on farm, or send it to an abattoir."

The re-homing scheme will be funded by a 1 per cent levy on prize money, expected to raise about $1.5 million a year.

The inquiry report made 37 recommendations to improve the treatment and welfare of horses across the industry, and the majority have been accepted by the State Government.

Other changes to be enforced include:

  • Making the use of electric prodders on horses an act of cruelty;

  • Allowing biosecurity officers to make unannounced visits to abattoirs and knackeries;

  • Forcing abattoirs and knackeries to record and provide the Government with microchip, branding and vendor details of ex-racehorses killed at their facilities;

  • Owners who consistently breed horse which do not make it into training will be excluded from holding a licence.

Minister struck by 'abhorrent images'

The 7.30 investigation revealed a Queensland abattoir was recorded slaughtering about 300 racehorses in just 22 days.

It also showed horses being beaten and abused, bolted to the brain repeatedly and ineffectively killed.

Other horses were kicked and suffered electric shocks while confined in the abattoir's kill box.

Queensland Agriculture Minister Mark Furner said he was appalled at the "abhorrent images".

He said he would draft new laws to give biosecurity officers more power at abattoirs.

"As a previous owner of a trotter, which I had as a pet, I was deeply moved by those images and I will not allow those sorts of practices to continue," he said.

"Biosecurity Queensland should have a role in inspecting those workplaces as well, so we're going to make sure that those conditions are met in regards to inspectors being allowed on site forthwith, and being made aware of when transport is occurring onto those locations."

The changes will only apply to ex-racehorses registered in Queensland.

The State Government and Racing Queensland are calling on the Commonwealth to establish a national traceability register, to track movements of all ex-racehorses between different owners.

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