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The Facts About Horse Racing

1. Thousands of racehorses are slaughtered each and every year

Over 10,000 racehorses are ‘discarded’ by the racing industry every year due to poor performance, injury, illness and other ‘problems’.

Most of these racehorses are sent to be brutally slaughtered at local knackeries where they are ground into pet meat, or purchased by one of the two horse abattoirs in Australia.

Over 25,000 horses in Australia are killed to provide up to 2000 tonnes of horse meat for consumption in Europe and Japan every year.


2. Racehorses suffer physically and mentally during training

Racehorses are often kept in individual stables for the majority of every day, receiving no social or environmental stimulation. This leads many horses to develop stress behaviours including crib-biting and self mutilation, as they try to escape their tiny pens.

While in isolation, horses are also fed highly concentrated grain diets, leading to deep, bleeding gastric ulcers. This painful internal injury is so prevalent that a study of horses at Randwick Racecourse found that 89% had stomach ulcers.

During training horses are at high risk of suffering painful injuries, including torn ligaments and tendons, dislocated joints and even fractured bones, often making them unfit for racing and ‘discarded’ for slaughter.


3. Racehorses often bleed into their lungs and windpipe from exertion

Known as Exercise-Induced Pulmonary Haemorrhage, the extent of the horrific internal injuries suffered by racehorses have only been fully recognised in recent years when endoscopes have been used to carry out internal examinations.

The University of Melbourne recently found that 50% of racehorses had blood in their windpipe, with 90% showing blood deeper in the lungs. These hidden injuries show the extreme and painful effects racing has on a horses’ body.


4. Dying on the track is a regular occurrence

On average, one racehorse dies every 3 days in Australia, often from catastrophic limb injuries, cardiac arrest or internal bleeding.

For the 2017 – 2018 racing year, 119 horses died on the track, with NSW having the highest number of recorded deaths.

For the 2018 – 2019 racing year, 122 horses died on the track, with NSW again having the highest number of recorded deaths.

As of 2019 Sydney’s Randwick Racecourse is the most lethal track in Australia, contributing to 6 on-track horse deaths.


5. Horses are subjected to tongue tying

Tongue ties are straps made of nylon, elastic bands or leather used to immobilises a racehorse’s tongue by attaching it to the lower jaw (and sometimes to the bit in the horse’s mouth). They are used in the racing industry to increase the rider’s control over a horse.

Tongue ties are cruel and harmful. Recent research has shown that not only do tongue ties obstruct a horses’ airway and limit their breathing, but they can cause lacerations, bruising, swelling of the tongue, difficulty swallowing and stress behaviours.


6. Whips are painful and cruel

The whipping of racehorses is one of the most visible forms of pain and violence inflicted on animals.

A 2011 study by Dr David Evans and Dr Paul McGreevy showed that 83% of times a horse was hit with a whip, there was a visible indentation in the horses’ skin. With horses receiving an average of 6.5 strikes in the last 200m of a race, with 70% hitting the flank and wider abdomen, they had no doubt that the use of whips was painful and cruel.

Learn more about how painful whips are to horses by watching ABC’s Catalyst episode on horse racing.