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Statement on BBC Panorama programme – The Dark Side of Horse Racing 20th July 2021

20 July 2021


Joint statement from The British Horse Society, Blue Cross, Bransby Horses, HorseWorld, Redwings, RSPCA and World Horse Welfare

As welfare charities we were disturbed and deeply concerned by Monday’s July 19th , BBC Panorama programme. It highlighted a number of issues that are not solely connected to racing, many of which the welfare charities have long been highlighting to the public and for Government.

It showed horses being transported for slaughter over many miles, across country borders and in some cases while suffering with injuries such as severe lameness, in direct contravention of horse transport regulations. It also appeared to show falsification of passports and failures in the equine ID and traceability system and the concerning treatment of horses in a slaughterhouse.

The racing world can help to drive improvements and we understand the British Horseracing Authority and other representatives of the industry including the Horse Welfare Board will be meeting to discuss the programme in more detail. However, we believe there are wider questions that need to be answered: why did it take undercover footage to reveal these issues when CCTV is now standard in abattoirs? Can we have faith that horses sent to abattoirs will be treated humanely? How can our equine ID system be shored up to prevent fraud and profiteering from these vulnerable animals at the end of their lives?

We would encourage all equine owners to make plans and provision for their own animal’s end of life care and we are calling on the Government through Defra's Action Plan for Animal Welfare to act on promises to improve our equine ID system - making sure the system is fit for purpose, enforceable and enforced - and ensure welfare is paramount both in horse transport and during their end-of-life care.

Please see our recent joint report, Britain’s Horse Problem Report for more detail on many of the issues raised by the programme

To find out more about the BHS’ advice and guidance on Euthanasia, and the BHS’ Friends at The End programme, please visit our Euthanasia page


British Horseracing Authority statement – July 19th 2021

British horseracing supports investigation into abattoir images - The British Horseracing Authority

The BBC’s Panorama programme has tonight broadcast pictures which, it suggests, show horses, including former racehorses, being euthanised in circumstances which may have harmed their welfare. They also reported that some of the horses had been transported from Ireland to a British abattoir.

No one in racing, and no one who loves horses, wants to see them caused distress or suffering at the end of their lives. If there has been a departure from approved abattoir practices and the welfare of the horses involved has been compromised, it is important this is addressed as a matter of urgency. This includes transporting horses over long distances to an abattoir, especially if these have injuries, which is not acceptable under the British racing industry’s guidelines for euthanasia.

The Food Standards Agency, which regulates abattoirs, is responsible for maintaining standards of animal welfare. We would support them if they decide there is evidence of mistreatment of animals which requires investigation, given the public concern that may arise from this programme.

The British racing industry, and the 7000 and more staff who look after our horses day-in, day-out, across Britain, are proud of the unparalleled standards of love, care, attention, and respect our horses receive. Where end-of life decisions are being considered, we want these to take place in accordance with the euthanasia guidelines developed by the industry’s Horse Welfare Board over the last 12 months. These aim to ensure that horses’ welfare is protected and that all available options for rehoming are examined.

Our sport has set out its wider approach to equine welfare in a strategy published in 2020, which the programme chose not to highlight. One of the core aspects of this strategy is collective lifetime responsibility, and the report identified the need to further enhance our record in the fields of aftercare and traceability. Significant steps have already been taken since the publication of the strategy. They include:

  • A review and recommendations for the funding of the aftercare sector;
  • The introduction of euthanasia guidelines for the industry to assist owners and veterinarians in considering the appropriate veterinary and ethical issues when faced with painful end-of-life dilemmas;
  • Improving traceability of racehorses, including greater use of digital passports to assist in tracking cross-border horse movements, and building greater data expertise within racing;
  • The development of a £2.5m emergency COVID relief fund for thoroughbreds that risk falling into neglect. So far, this fund has not needed to be used.

The BHA and other leaders from the British racing industry, including the independently-chaired Horse Welfare Board, will be meeting tomorrow to consider further the issues raised by this programme. We will also be in contact our counterparts in Ireland.

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