New plan will track all horses

Federal Agricultural Minister Bridget McKenzie asked to act on horse register

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All horses, not just Thoroughbreds and Standardbreds, should be captured in a national traceability register, according to high level officials.

All horses, not just Thoroughbreds and Standardbreds, should be captured in a national traceability register, according to high level officials.

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State racing ministers favour a register for all horse breeds

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FEDERAL Agriculture Minister Bridget McKenzie will be asked to consider implementing a national traceability register for all horses, contrary to an earlier plan.

In the immediate aftermath of the damning ABC 7.30 Report in October, which revealed retired race horses were being sent to east coast slaughterhouses once they reached a so-called use-by date, racing officials advocated for a national register of gallopers, pacers and trotters.

At the time Victoria's Racing Minister, Martin Pakula, said a national register would provide the necessary transparency to track the life of a Thoroughbred or Standardbred through every stage from foaling to retirement.

Similarly, his Queensland colleague Stirling Hinchliffe moved quickly to condemn the practices aired in the television report and fast-tracked an industry forum to examine horse welfare and re-homing.

At the same time Racing Queensland CEO Brendan Parnell said the inhumane treatment of horses was abhorrent and the racing industry had a collective responsibility to ensure the safety and well-being of horses.

"This is a national issue. In Australia, there needs to be a system to track horse movements once they leave the industry. A national horse traceability program is critical," Mr Parnell said.

The conference delegates agreed in-principle that Agriculture Minister Bridget McKenzie should be asked to support the implementation of a National Horse Traceability Register for all horses.

The conference delegates agreed in-principle that Agriculture Minister Bridget McKenzie should be asked to support the implementation of a National Horse Traceability Register for all horses.

But a meeting late last week in Perth of racing ministers from throughout Australia found the original scope of a traceability register too narrow.

Conference chairman Paul Papalia, who is also WA's Minister for Tourism, Racing and Gaming, said ministers had raised concerns any register concentrating on racing horses ignored the broader horse population.

"The general sentiment from Queensland and Victoria was the concern you would create an incentive for people seeking out horses that aren't tracked through a national register if you only do racehorses," Mr Papalia said.

In a formal communique, the conference delegates agreed in-principle that Ms McKenzie should be asked to support the implementation of a national horse traceability register for all horses, rather than solely applying to racing horses.

"In that correspondence, the racing ministers would propose racing officials from the Senior Officers Working Group should work with Racing Australia, Harness Racing Australia and state, territory and Commonwealth agriculture officials on the implementation of such a scheme," the communique said.

Mr Papalia said he would write to Ms McKenzie as a matter of urgency.

"There is no national racing minister," Mr Papalia said.

"The Agriculture Minister is the one who has the powers under various acts to initiate the sort of response, so she really needs to do it."

A spokesperson for Ms McKenzie said Australians expected animal welfare standards to be complied with when it came to the treatment of horses.

"Ensuring animal welfare is a responsibility of the states, however Australia's Agriculture Ministers discussed the need for a national approach to the management of retired race horses at their last meeting," the spokesperson said.

"Ms McKenzie will consider the letter from state and territory racing ministers, along with the final report from the Senate Committee looking at the feasibility of a national horse traceability register for all horses, which is due by December 5, 2019."

Victoria's Mr Pakula said the welfare of retired horses was a national issue.

He also said the effectiveness of a national traceability register would be reliant on Racing Australia, Harness Racing Australia and the Department of Agriculture devising a suitable framework.

"We're calling for the states and the Commonwealth government to get to work to design the best framework for a national scheme that can produce real results," Mr Pakula said.

A spokesman for Racing Australia said reforms it had introduced strengthened integrity and equine welfare goals by ensuring authorities had access to the ownership and location details of horses, from birth until their retirement from racing.

The Australian Horse Industry Council fears a national traceability register could come with an exorbitant price and also be difficult to enforce.

On the other hand the Thoroughbred Breeders Australia and RSPCA agree a national traceability register would yield multiple benefits including improved animal welfare, biosecurity safety and a lift in the integrity of horse trade.

A spokesman for the Australian Stock Horse Society said it was unaware of any broader plan to cover all horses while calls and emails to the National Pleasure Horse Association went unanswered.

Mr Papalia said WA would be a leader in the reform stakes through its Western Australian Racehorse Welfare Plan.

He said $5 million would be spent in the first year implementing the plan with a further $3 million in annual recurrent funding.

Mr Hinchliffe accused the Morrison government of contributing "very little" to the discourse but added Queensland would introduce a prize money levy in 2020 to fund re-homing programs.

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