The BHA has defended the whip as “an essential aid to horsemanship and safety” after the Labour party promised to review its use in racing in its animal welfare manifesto for government.
In the manifesto, released on Wednesday, Labour said it would “carry out an independent review of the use of the whip to establish if its use for ‘encouragement’ can be justified”.
The BHA responded by releasing a statement explaining its position on the whip. It said: “Whips are carried as an essential aid to horsemanship and safety, which this Labour party policy proposal acknowledges. This is consistent across most equine activities.
“The design of the whip is foam-padded and energy absorbing. The thresholds for use are set well below the point at which its use might compromise the welfare of a horse. These have been in place since 2011 and other racing jurisdictions have moved subsequently to introduce similar measures.
No horses have been marked or ‘wealed’ by use of the whip in 2019 and only one horse has been marked in the last three years
“Our jockeys have responded well to the introduction of these rules and the number of examples of breaches of the rules has fallen significantly over that period.
“No horses have been marked or ‘wealed’ by use of the whip in 2019 and only one horse has been marked in the last three years, from in excess of 225,000 runners.
“British racing’s whip rules were recently endorsed by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), who stated that they are ‘satisfied that the rules in place are sufficient to restrict and limit the use of the whip in horseracing’.”
The BHA statement said “the whip does not compromise the welfare of horses during a race”. It highlighted the establishment of a new Horse Welfare Board and a research project analysing data since the last whip review in 2011 as evidence of its “commitment to continuous improvement of the current high standards” regarding horse welfare.
Will Lambe, Executive Director of the BHA, said: “British racing’s high standards of horse welfare have been recognised by successive governments of all parties. We are confident that any external scrutiny of our sport will recognise the dedication and care shown by racing staff, including our jockeys, and the high quality of life experienced by our horses.
“We respect the right of politicians to ask questions of our sport and we can – and do – reassure them of the high standards of welfare in British racing, and the steps we are taking to enhance our welfare record and reputation.
“We have had constructive engagement with Labour’s shadow Defra team to date, and will respond in a measured and united way as a sport to ensure that the appropriate facts and information are set out confidently and fairly.”