Killing of “retired” racehorses & racing greyhounds shocks Australia

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, January/February 2013:

MELBOURNE––Run since 1861 on the first Tuesday of each November, fourteen years longer than the Kentucky Derby, the Melbourne Cup is marketed as “’The race that stops a nation.” What stopped Australian attention most in November 2012, though, may have been undercover video posted online by the Coalition for the Protection of Racehorses, showing injured racehorses being shot dead at the Laverton Knackery west of Melbourne.

“The allegations are being investigated by the state’s meat regulator, PrimeSafe, as well as the Royal SPCA [of Australia],” reported Melbourne Age political correspondent Richard Willingham, “after Animals Australia–the group that uncovered cruelty to Australian cattle in Indonesia in 2011–made a formal complaint.

In a detailed letter to the Department of Primary Industries, Animals Australia claims dozens of breaches of animal cruelty, hygiene, welfare and meat industry laws, which could result in the cancellation or suspension of the business’ licence.” Animals Australia told the Department of Primary Industries that in one instance a worker “shot the horse twice, did not ensure the horse was dead, and then tied the horse to a tractor and dragged him across 60 meters of concrete and gravel, after which he was found to still be breathing. The worker shot the horse again and the horse’s throat was then slit, and the horse continued to make purposeful movements, paddling his legs and lifting his head off the ground until he died.”

“Zoos Victoria has ceased all supply arrangements with Laverton Pet Supplies following the presentation of evidence from Animals Australia showing inhumane treatment of horses at their premise,” Melbourne and Werribee zoos director Kevin Tanner told the Melbourne Age. “The racing industry can’t stand up and say they love these horses and then the next day when they can no longer earn money at the races get a bullet in the head and be killed for dogmeat,” Coalition for the Protection of Racehorses spokesperson Ward Young told Guy Stayner of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

Reported Stayner, “There are currently about 15,000 thoroughbred foals born every year [in Australia]. The industry calls the number of horses lost to racing each year ‘wastage.’” About 8,500 Australian racehorses per year are retired from racing, Royal SPCA of Australia president Hugh Wirth told Stayner, “mostly due to injury, due to the fact they are prepared for racing when they were juveniles and not mature in bone and limb.” This suggests that only about half of the thoroughbred foals born each year ever reach a race track––which would be more than reached race tracks five years ago. At that time, the RSPCA of Australia found, about 10,000 racehorses per year were slaughtered, and only about 30% of the foals born were eventually raced. Australian horse racing industry spokespersons say about two-thirds of the thoroughbred foals born each year are raced.

Either way, those who fall short of racing grade or pull up lame are among the 50,000 to 70,000 horses who are sold to slaughter in Australia each year. Some of the meat is exported to foreign markets for human consumption; some is processed into animal food. Though Western Australia minister for agriculture and food Terry Redman in June 2010 approved the slaughter of horses for human consumption, only one novelty meat butcher is known to supply horsemeat for human consumption within Australia.

The racehorse slaughter controversy blew up simultaneously with shock over a November 10, 2012 report by Timothy McDonald of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation about the admission of Greyhound Racing New South Wales that about 3,000 ex-racing greyhounds per year are killed in NSW alone. Some greyhounds are offered for adoption, but the major alternate destination for “retired” Australian racing greyhounds is export to the Macau Canidrome, the only legal greyhound track in China. The Canidrome kills about 35 greyhounds per month. “They are usually put down if they fail to finish in the top three for five consecutive races,” according to Simon Parry of the South China Morning Post.

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