The BBC’s Panorama probe into animal welfare has caused a stir in the horse racing world, not least among industry leaders and top organisations.
The programme, which has prompted the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) to call ‘urgent’ meetings with the independently-chaired Horse Welfare Board, has evoked strong reactions from those within the sport, including BettingExpert’s Stephen Harris.
Horse racing expert Harris was quizzed on the investigation by Shane Anderson, stating that the ‘sad programme’ should spark a change.
“I don’t think you can dismiss it,” Harris said. “Instinctively, whenever I hear that Animal Aid is involved, their agenda is to get rid of horse racing, let’s make no bones about it – they think it’s cruel.
“Those of us who earn a living from the sport will vigorously defend it so we need to get things right. Obviously, this was completely unacceptable that a horse ended up at this slaughter.
“That seemed to be what they framed the programme around and it’s hard to know the scale of actual race horses that have been sent to slaughter, rather than bad practice at a slaughterhouse for all horses which is a totally different subject altogether, whether they’re lame or unsuitable to be retired properly.
“I think what we’re going to have to do in racing is agree on a point at the point of ownership where you need to prepare for life after racing for the horse that you own in some form or another. That’s probably going to be in the form of some kind of tax or a levy that’s placed on training fees.”
He likened horse racing’s predicament to that of greyhound racing, which was also placed under the spotlight.
“We’ve had this in dog racing,” he added. “It was a huge scandal which was very similar to how some trainers a few years ago were caught disposing of greyhounds when they finished racing in an inhuman way.
“The powers that be have actually sorted this now. There’s been several million pounds gone into greyhound ownership and there’s some fantastic organisers. While the problem is there, it’s much smaller and now under control. And horse racing probably has to do exactly the same.”