Racing Victoria has announced that it is seeking national action on whip reform in Australian thoroughbred racing prior to the end of 2020.
Racing Victoria (RV) is of the view that a new framework is required to transition the industry to an ultimate prohibition on use of the whip for purposes other than to protect the safety of horses and jockeys.
RV will be seeking a vote at the November 2020 Racing Australia (RA) Board meeting that the transition commences with a significant reduction in the permitted use of the whip in a race.
RV will propose that, from 1 January 2021, riders are only permitted to use the whip on a maximum number of occasions throughout the entire race and never in a horse’s consecutive strides. RV is proposing that the maximum number be between five and eight occasions per race.
The current Australian Rules of Racing permit the use of the whip a maximum of five times in non-consecutive strides prior to the 100m mark and at the rider’s discretion in the final 100m of a race where its use in consecutive strides is permitted.
RV believes that the current national whip rules are no longer appropriate and not in the best interests of Victorian and Australian racing, both now and in the long-term.
In calling for whip reform, RV articulated that jockeys should be permitted to continue to carry whips at all times, but that the industry should be working towards a framework where their use is only permitted in circumstances necessary to protect the safety of riders and horses.
As part of its ongoing commitment to national policy discussions, RV formally tabled its view with Racing Australia in February 2020 that changes to the national whip rules are essential for the future of Victorian and Australian racing.
To this point, national consensus has not been reached on any reform to the use of the whip, leaving Australia lagging behind many other leading international racing jurisdictions who have significantly reduced their permitted use of the whip in recent years.
If national consensus on an amendment to the Australian Rules of Racing cannot be reached, RV will explore alternative approaches to achieve meaningful progress on whip reform.
The use of the whip in thoroughbred racing has long been a cause for debate both within the industry and the broader community. RV remains of the view that padded whips do not constitute a risk to equine welfare, however it is clear that their ongoing use is becoming less compatible with community expectations each year.
Ensuring that Australian racing retains its existing audiences and attracts new fans and employees is vital to securing the ongoing sustainability of the sport and locally, the 25,000 full-time equivalent jobs it supports in Victoria.
To achieve that, the industry must continually reflect the values of the community in which it operates.