RSPCA call to ban whip after winning jockeys secure victory despite breaching whip rules

British Flat Season horse racing

RSPCA call to ban whip after winning jockeys secure victory despite breaching whip rules

Jockeys at both the Grand National and Cheltenham Festival lift trophies despite breaking whip rules

The RSPCA is calling for a ban on hitting horses with whips to make them run faster after the winning jockey at the Grand National and winners at the Cheltenham Festival landed victory despite breaching whip rules.

The British Horseracing Authority (BHA) is carrying out a consultation around the use of the whip in racing and the RSPCA urges the body to take the recent cases into consideration.

Dr Mark Kennedy said:

Based on all the evidence, our call to the British Horseracing Authority and everyone in racing is simple – it’s time to get rid of beating horses with the whip to get them to run faster. Tinkering with the existing rules is not the answer.”

The current rules as stated by the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) allow a jockey to strike their horse with a whip seven times on the flat, and eight times over fences. It also states that the whip must not be used if the horse is clearly winning. If this is exceeded, the jockey can be given a penalty such as a temporary ban from racing or a fine. However, the jockey who won the Grand National and winners at the Cheltenham Festival, who broke whip rules, received penalties but did not have their winning titles taken from them.


Dr Mark Kennedy said

The science clearly shows that hitting horses with the whip in the way it is used in racing causes pain. It’s also been suggested this could make the horses more likely to make errors in the way they move and their body position, which could lead them to fall or suffer injury, sometimes fatal. Four horses lost their lives at the Cheltenham Festival and another four died at the Grand National meeting this year.

The British Horseracing Authority opened a public consultation on the use of the whip in British horseracing last year, with Dr Kennedy submitting a response setting out the RSPCA’s view and indicating the science supporting this. Disappointingly, progress is slow as the industry’s response to this consultation is still yet to be released.

Racing’s whip defenders argue that the whip does not cause horses pain which the RSPCA says a wealth of scientific studies rebuts.

Mark added:

The layer of horse skin where pain receptors are located is of similar thickness to that in humans and is just as richly populated with pain-sensing nerves. The concept of the ‘thick-skinned horse’ not feeling whip blows is a myth.

Simple logic tells us that the horse must feel whip strikes- if horses cannot feel and react to them  then why use the whip at all? If the whip isn’t associated with pain, the sound it makes would have no significance to the horse, and so they wouldn’t respond to it.”

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