ABC Goulburn Murray / By Erin Somerville
Posted Friday 28 February 2020 at 6:38 pm
A working group has been established to help create a national horse register to make animals easier to trace, with Victoria and Queensland set to take the lead.
A Senate inquiry into the feasibility of the National Horse Traceability Register for all horses last year handed down 18 recommendations aimed at better managing and promoting animal welfare, rider safety, and biosecurity in the equine sector.
The establishment of the working group, agreed upon by ministers at the Agriculture Minister's Forum in Launceston in February, met the first recommendation from the inquiry.
Other recommendations urged the working group to engage with owners of abattoirs and knackeries to integrate a national horse traceability register into processing practices for horses.
It comes as revelations were made by the ABC last year that hundreds of registered racehorses are being discarded at slaughterhouses in Australia.
The working group could also usher in a phased approach to microchipping horses, and consider adopting a trial program following the establishment of the national register.
Ministers also agreed at the forum that Queensland would lead the development of Australian Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines for Livestock at Processing Establishments.
Queensland would also lead a review of the suitability for horses to come under Land Transport of Livestock in the existing Australian Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines.
The review would be subsequent to the completion of coordinated action on horse welfare during transport, as agreed by agriculture senior officials on December 19, 2019.
Working group exciting step for campaigners
The national horse register working group's establishment was welcomed by a Newcastle mother lobbying for a national horse register for over a decade after her daughter was killed after falling from an ex-racehorse at a Dubbo TAFE.
Juliana Waugh has since been recognised for her efforts with an Order of Australia medal.
While initially Mrs Waugh started the push for the register in a bid to protect riders such as her daughter, she said she was excited the working group could establish a system that would cover other concerns in the sector.
"[The working group] are going to create a register at a very simple biosecurity level," she said.
"Into the future with consultation with groups will come all the benefits and uses, including the safety aspect, which our family were interested in."
The actioning of the first recommendation has also been welcomed by Senator Mehreen Faruqi, who established the Senate inquiry.
"I'm delighted to see the register moving from an idea to reality," she said.
"To see the full benefits of a register, including protecting horses from neglect and cruelty while improving rider safety and national biosecurity, it's vital the register covers all horses from birth to death."
Dr Faruqi said the register would make the horseracing industry more accountable.
"At the end of the day, no racehorse should end up in a slaughterhouse.
"Australians were outraged by the horrific slaughter of racehorses exposed by 730 last year.
"Tracking horses throughout their lives will help make sure the industry has no excuse but to give every horse a dignified retirement."
The ABC has requested comment from the Queensland's Agriculture Industry Development Minister, the Victorian Minister for Agriculture, the Victorian Minister for Racing, and Thoroughbred Breeders Australia on the implications of the establishment of the working group.