Animal Aid

The BHA must stand firm on new whipping rules

Posted 14 October 2011

With the growing jockey rebellion over the new, more restrictive whip regime, Animal Aid has urged the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) to resist the temptation to weaken either the new rules on how the whip can be used or the penalties for breaches.

Described at the time of their announcement (27 September 2011) as ‘firm but fair’, the new rules were hailed by the BHA as vital because of public disquiet at seeing horses routinely beaten in public for sport and at the regulator doing nothing to stop it.

As noted by Jamie Stier, BHA Director of raceday operations and regulations: ‘It's an impossible argument to win when you're saying what you have in place is effective when you have over 800 breaches a year and up to a maximum of 950 in a season.’ (RTE, 6 October 2011)

A public poll published recently by the BHA itself showed that 57 per cent of the public (68 per cent of women) want an outright ban on the whip. These results would indicate that most people are likely to greet with incredulity complaints by rebel jockey Richard Hughes that the new regime is ‘barbaric’, and that restricting his use of the whip is ‘like telling Lionel Messi he can't use his left foot’.

In response to the furore, the BHA has hinted that it could give ground on the new penalty structure, which includes loss of prize money, riding fee and an increase in the number of days’ suspension from racing.

But as Jamie Stier has made clear, rules about how the whip can be used have no force unless they are backed up with penalties that act as a genuine deterrent.

An argument jockeys are entitled to make is that all the penalties for whip offences fall upon them. A rider in breach of the rules and who wins a race can lose his or her winnings and riding fee but the horse is still ruled to have come first, with all the consequent rewards for the owner and trainer. This is despite the fact that the jockey will have ridden to the instructions of the trainer.

Says Animal Aid’s Director, Andrew Tyler:

‘For more then 10 years, Animal Aid has campaigned for an outright ban on the whip – a position now supported by the general public. We were disappointed that the BHA fell short of introducing a prohibition but recognise that the new regime is a significant improvement over the previous system. If the BHA succumbs to jockey pressure and backtracks, racing will put itself at an even greater distance from the public on whom it depends for its future. But the ultimate argument for banning the whip is that it is a device to bully and intimidate animals to run to their physical limit, and sometimes beyond it. That is what is barbaric and not Richard Hughes’ misplaced sense of injustice.’

For more information:

  • Contact Andrew Tyler or Dene Stansall on 01732 364546.

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