BBC’s Panorama leads to ‘urgent’ meetings from the BHA

The BBC’s Panorama documentary, which focused on the welfare of horses, has led to the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) calling for ‘urgent’ meetings with the independently-chaired Horse Welfare Board, along with other industry leaders. 

The programme reported that horses had been transported from Ireland to the UK with an injury before arriving at an abattoir – which is against the approved practices and is an issue the BHA will look at as a ‘matter of urgency’.

Following the programme, the BHA will also contact colleagues at Horse Racing Ireland after the Monday night Panorama episode, entitled ‘The Dark Side of Horse Racing’. 

A statement issued by the BHA referenced welfare standards: “This includes transporting horses over long distances to an abattoir, especially if these have injuries, which is not acceptable under the British racing industry’s guidelines for euthanasia.”

“The Food Standards Agency, which regulates abattoirs, is responsible for maintaining standards of animal welfare. We would support them if they decide there is evidence of mistreatment of animals which requires investigation, given the public concern that may arise from this programme.

“The British racing industry, and the 7,000 and more staff who look after our horses day-in, day-out, across Britain, are proud of the unparalleled standards of love, care, attention, and respect our horses receive. Where end-of life decisions are being considered, we want these to take place in accordance with the euthanasia guidelines developed by the industry’s Horse Welfare Board over the last 12 months. These aim to ensure that horses’ welfare is protected and that all available options for rehoming are examined.

“Our sport has set out its wider approach to equine welfare in a strategy published in 2020, which the programme chose not to highlight. One of the core aspects of this strategy is collective lifetime responsibility, and the report identified the need to further enhance our record in the fields of aftercare and traceability.”

The BHA also stated that significant steps had been taken since the publication of the strategy – including a review and recommendations for the funding of the aftercare sector.

The statement spelled out that industry discussions of the issues raised are set to take place on Tuesday.

It added: “The BHA and other leaders from the British racing industry, including the independently-chaired Horse Welfare Board, will be meeting tomorrow to consider further the issues raised by this programme.

“We will also be in contact with our colleagues in Ireland.”

Horse Racing Ireland also responded after the programme, in a short statement which read: “The images from the Swindon abattoir, portrayed this evening in the BBC documentary Panorama, showed behaviour unacceptable in any context.

“This footage does not reflect, and is not representative, of the care that racehorses receive throughout their lives.”