Racing Victoria (RV) has today announced that it is seeking national action on whip reform in Australian thoroughbred racing prior to the end of 2020.
RV is of the view that a new framework is required to transition the industry to an ultimate prohibition on use of the whip for purposes other than to protect the safety of horses and jockeys.
RV will be seeking a vote at the November 2020 Racing Australia (RA) Board meeting that the transition commences with a significant reduction in the permitted use of the whip in a race.
RV will propose that, from 1 January 2021, riders are only permitted to use the whip on a maximum number of occasions throughout the entire race and never in a horse’s consecutive strides. RV is proposing that the maximum number be between five and eight occasions per race.
The current Australian Rules of Racing permit the use of the whip a maximum of five times in non-consecutive strides prior to the 100m mark and at the rider’s discretion in the final 100m of a race where its use in consecutive strides is permitted.
RV believes that the current national whip rules are no longer appropriate and not in the best interests of Victorian and Australian racing, both now and in the long-term.
In calling for whip reform, RV articulated that jockeys should be permitted to continue to carry whips at all times, but that the industry should be working towards a framework where their use is only permitted in circumstances necessary to protect the safety of riders and horses.
As part of its ongoing commitment to national policy discussions, RV formally tabled its view with Racing Australia in February 2020 that changes to the national whip rules are essential for the future of Victorian and Australian racing.
To this point, national consensus has not been reached on any reform to the use of the whip, leaving Australia lagging behind many other leading international racing jurisdictions who have significantly reduced their permitted use of the whip in recent years.
If national consensus on an amendment to the Australian Rules of Racing cannot be reached, RV will explore alternative approaches to achieve meaningful progress on whip reform.
The use of the whip in thoroughbred racing has long been a cause for debate both within the industry and the broader community. RV remains of the view that padded whips do not constitute a risk to equine welfare, however it is clear that their ongoing use is becoming less compatible with community expectations each year.
Ensuring that Australian racing retains its existing audiences and attracts new fans and employees is vital to securing the ongoing sustainability of the sport and locally, the 25,000 full-time equivalent jobs it supports in Victoria. To achieve that, the industry must continually reflect the values of the community in which it operates.
Quotes attributable to RV Chief Executive, Giles Thompson
“As industry leaders, we are charged with not only managing the sport today but ensuring that it remains vibrant and successful for generations to come. Making progress on whip reform is important if we want to retain our existing audiences and ensure that we’re an attractive option for the fans and employees of tomorrow.
“It is Racing Victoria’s view that progress on whip reform is needed now, and that the industry nationally, acting in its best long-term interests, should continue to work towards a prohibition on the use of the whip for purposes other than to protect the safety of horses and jockeys. It is critical that jockeys are permitted to carry a whip to ensure their safety and jockey safety is something that we will always advocate.
“We want to reduce the number of times the whip can be used in Victorian racing, and indeed nationally, from 2021. This would be an important step in the right direction for our industry, one that recognises the progression of community attitudes in the decade since padded whips were first introduced.
“Britain, Ireland, France, Germany and key states in the USA have either implemented or announced significant reductions in permitted whip use and have seen great competitive racing continue. At this time Australian racing has been left behind when it comes to reforms on whip use.
“The industry will always be best served by a national approach to whip reform and this is something that we desire, however to this point that has not been achievable. We believe that prompt progress on whip reform is in the best interests of Australian racing and we are encouraging the Racing Australia Board and other states to join us in making meaningful steps this year.
“In doing so, we will be consulting with our key stakeholder groups over the coming months on the implementation of specific rules that would see important whip reform achieved through a reduction in the permitted number of occasions that it can be used in a race.”
Permitted whip use in the international jurisdictions referenced is as follows: Britain (7 times per race), Ireland (8), Germany (5), France (5) and in the USA, the states of California and Kentucky have announced reductions to (6).