Is The Whip Barbaric and Unnecessary?

This week’s LET IT RIDE.COM HOT TOPIC comes from Rex Jory of AdelaideNow…take a read and VOICE AN OPINION!

It’s time to phase out the barbaric use of whips in horse racing

THE use of whips should be quietly phased out of Australian horse racing.

Cracking a horse with a whip is, by definition, painful – although I don’t subscribe to the view of some extremists that it is barbaric or unnecessarily cruel.

Whipping gives thoroughbred racing a bad image.

I class myself as a casual race follower.

Like so many, my flower of interest blooms during the Victorian Spring carnival.

Slow motion cameras make it impossible to ignore the use of whips in racing.

The television images of winning Melbourne Cup jockey, Brett Prebble, urging his mount, Green Moon, to the finishing line last Tuesday were superb.

Prebble gave Green Moon a couple of hefty clouts to the rump with his whip in the last 200m.

Then we saw his dancing fingers cleverly change the grip on the whip as he crossed the line.

What concerned me was not the mere act of smacking a magnificent animal.

It was the perception the action had on the television audience.

Many people watching the Melbourne Cup on television are novices to racing.

They rarely, if ever, attend a race meeting and probably don’t have 10 bets a year. Some will be young. Children watch the Melbourne Cup.

A small number, at least, could be seduced by the excitement and romance of racing.

They are a potential audience, part of the future of racing.

But it’s worth pondering how many will be put off by the ugly images of horses being flogged by whips?

What was acceptable, even condoned, 20 or 30 years ago is not necessarily acceptable today.

If someone flogged a dog in the same way jockeys whip horses they would be prosecuted.

Presumably jockeys whip horses to make them go faster. Horses run faster because the whip stings.

If whipping horses doesn’t hurt, then why do it?

There are very few sports or entertainments other than horse racing and horse eventing where animals are any longer deliberately beaten for pleasure or benefit.

Dignified society no longer tolerates standing bears on hot metal plates to make them “dance”.

Nor does it allow bears to fight dogs in pits, dog or cock fighting, live-hare coursing or fox hunting, to name a few of the crueller pastimes.

Circuses are now under increasing pressure to dispense with live animals acts including lions and elephants and zoos have become the source of breeding programs to save endangered species rather than being just an opportunity to gawk at caged animals.

To be fair to the Australian Racing Board and the broader industry, strict controls on the use of whips were introduced in August, 2009.

Padded whips are now mandatory, the whipping arm cannot be raised above the shoulder, whips should not be used if there is no prospect of improving a horse’s placing, and a whip cannot be used more than five times before the 200m mark and after that point not in consecutive strides.

Announcing the restrictions, the then-chairman of the Australian Racing Board, Bob Bentley, said: “The best scientific advice available to us says that padded whips do not inflict pain or injury and that is the outcome we want.”

So why does the racing industry persist with the use of whips?

If whipping doesn’t hurt then presumably it does not affect the performance of a horse.

A survey by the RSPCA found that a whip caused a “visual indentation” on the horse in 83 per cent of impacts, the unpadded section of the whip made contact in 64 per cent of impacts, and more than 75 per cent of the time when used the whip struck the horse in the abdomen, not the rump.

Whipping horses may be part of the romance and tradition of horse racing. But it can no longer be justified in 2012.

Whips should be phased out of horse racing in Australia and the sooner the better.


1 Comment»

  Brian Noyes wrote @

Check out the video of the Santa Ynez Stakes from Santa Anita and Renee’s Titan; probably only won because rider lost whip at head of the lane.

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