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Speech: The horrors of the racing industry

Speeches in Parliament
Mehreen Faruqi 30 Nov 2021

More and more people are catching on to the horrors of the racing industry. After years of investigations, which have highlighted the cruelty of horse and greyhound racing again and again, it has become an issue that governments can no longer ignore or hide from. Several weeks ago, Minister Littleproud announced the allocation of $1.1 million towards establishing a national horse traceability scheme. This follows the recommendations of a Senate inquiry into horse traceability, which I initiated in 2019. The government needs to get on with this. It is important for biosecurity, for animal welfare and for rider safety.

The racing industry has also been forced to admit that it needs to take animal welfare more seriously. A report commissioned by Thoroughbred Breeders Australia recently highlights the need for national welfare standards for thoroughbred horses and for a new regulator to be established. Forgive me for being cynical, but I am. This is just window-dressing to try to make more palatable an industry that thrives on the exploitation of animals and is losing its social licence. The reality is that no horses will be safe until this gambling-fuelled horse cruelty is shut down. At least 149 horses have been killed at Australian racetracks over the past racing year. That's more than one horse every three days, and that's just the tip of the iceberg. Thousands of ex-racehorses are slaughtered every year, after they stop making a profit. Many don't even make it to the racetrack; they are labelled 'wastage' and killed.

The public are increasingly becoming aware of this cruelty, and they don't like it. While horse-betting donations to the major political parties have skyrocketed over the last few years, public interest in the Melbourne Cup has declined dramatically and more businesses are boycotting the event. There is an assumption that voters don't usually consider animal welfare when they vote. However, recent independent and statistically-significant polling commissioned by the Greens found that 80 per cent of respondents were concerned about animal welfare and 46 per cent of voters are more likely to vote for a candidate with strong animal welfare policies. This shows how out of touch both Labor and the coalition are with the majority of voters, who want to see much stronger animal welfare standards.

While the two major parties continue to prop up animal cruelty, the Greens recognise the racing industry for what it is: a deadly industry kept alive by the powerful gambling interests and the cowardly politicians who pander to them. The Greens don't take these dirty donations, and we are not influenced by the racing and gambling industries. Earlier this month, I launched our Horse Racing Transition Plan. There is an opportunity here to shut down a cruel industry, deliver new jobs in the regions and the cities, and repurpose racetracks for community facilities and green spaces. The plan would establish a horseracing transition task force and be funded through a horse-betting levy of one per cent. This levy would raise almost $500 million in two years to fund activities such as retraining programs for workers, rehoming schemes for animals and the redevelopment of racecourses.

Our Horse Racing Transition Plan sits alongside our commitment to shut down greyhound racing, including banning the export of greyhounds for racing and breeding. Despite the intense spotlight on dog drugging, injuries and deaths, greyhounds continue to be relentlessly raced, drugged, injured and killed. In 2021 alone, there have been 160 track deaths and more than 9,000 track injuries. These beautiful dogs should be running for fun, not for their lives.

I want to acknowledge the many animal welfare advocates and activists who expose the cruelty of horse and greyhound racing. From the bottom of my heart, I want to thank the many rescue groups and individuals who save and rehabilitate these animals, giving them love and the good life that they deserve. But they shouldn't have to do this. Racing dogs and horses for gambling and entertainment is barbaric. It's inhumane and it's deadly. Shut it down.


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