Animal Aid

As racing goes into crisis talks over jockeys' behaviour ... WHIP USE AT AINTREE UNDER THE SPOTLIGHT

Posted 31 March 2008

Animal Aid will be closely monitoring use of the whip at this week's three-day Grand National meeting at Aintree. The national campaign group’s announcement comes as the industry enters crisis talks over its inability to control the behaviour of jockeys.

At Wincanton today, representatives of riders and administrators will meet to confront what the jockeys' chief spokesperson has called the ‘poor public perception’ of whip use.

Josh Apiafi, Chief Executive of the Professional Jockeys' Association, told The Times on 29 March, ‘We all admit that things are not working … The available punishments are not acting as a deterrent.’

At the same time, leading jockeys are rebelling over the number of suspensions imposed by the British Horseracing Authority (BHA).

The crisis talks are evidence, says Animal Aid, that the BHA’s ‘disciplinary’ regime is in disarray and that such confidence that did exist in the regulator’s handling of the whip issue is fast ebbing away.

In December, Animal Aid Director, Andrew Tyler, wrote to Nottinghamshire's Chief Constable, calling for jockey Eddie Ahern to be prosecuted under the Animal Welfare Act for ‘cynical, self-interested and cruel’ use of the whip at a meeting at Southwell racecourse. A high-level police investigation is currently under way.

As part of that enquiry, a Chief Superintendent visited the BHA headquarters. Since then, the BHA has been on the defensive over the whip, and debate within newspapers' racing pages has grown markedly. Stewards have been ordering a large number of suspensions over whip abuse, but this has failed to curtail aggressive behaviour. At the same time, jockeys have complained about ‘unfair treatment’.

Aintree will be an important test for regulators, owners, trainers and jockeys. Animal Aid will be carefully monitoring use of the whip, and the BHA’s ability – through word or deed – to control violent jockeys. Our research shows that there were 674 whip offences in 2007 by 195 jockeys, and yet abuse continues at a high rate.

The national campaign group reiterates its call for a ban on the whip. It is not only a cruel device but its use often puts horses in danger and fails to improve their ‘performance’.

Says Animal Aid Director, Andrew Tyler:

‘The law does not allow any other animal in Britain to be routinely beaten – least of all for sport, and in public. While racing has introduced an RSPCA-approved ‘cushioned’ whip, the BHA's own evidence shows that this device can still cause pain and injury.’

More Information:

Contact Andrew Tyler on 01732 364 546

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