13 November 2019

Horrifying horse abuse in an abattoir in the Eastern States was shown recently on ABC TV and has triggered an unprecedented response from West Australians. We can’t recall another single animal welfare incident where so many people have approached RSPCA inspectors saying they are worried this could be happening to horses here and asking what they can do to prevent it.

The thoroughbred racing industry must urgently address what happens to retired racehorses. But if racing has a problem with what is called ‘wastage’ of horses, questions also need to be asked about harness racing along with horse breeding by amateurs in the equestrian and recreational horse sector which is mostly unregulated.

What happens to all these horses when no-one wants to take care of them anymore? Looking after a horse properly requires an ongoing financial commitment. RSPCA WA inspectors often receive reports of neglected horses and ponies. For the financial year 2018/2019, RSPCA WA Inspectors conducted five prosecutions involving eight horses.

Most cases occur on properties where they can be publicly seen and, if they are reported, animal welfare inspectors can take action. But some horses and ponies unfortunately end up at a slaughter facility. Horses slaughtered in WA are destined to become pet food and the places where they are killed are known as “knackeries.” Some are registered with local government but inspectors sometimes receive reports of illegal abattoirs and knackeries.

Under the current WA laws, inspectors cannot simply turn up and conduct an inspection of animal welfare standards and practices. That means they rely on whistle blowers, mostly employees or visitors to the facility, to report cruelty.

Add to that, the potential number of illegal facilities right across WA that are not on anyone’s radar and the upshot is no-one can say for sure that the kind of cruelty and abuse of horses that we saw in the news media is not going on here in WA. If such places are operating illegally, it’s reasonable to suspect high standards of animal welfare are not part of the operation.

Now, back to the beginning and the question of what you can do to help.

Our Minister for Agriculture Alannah MacTiernan has appointed a panel of experts to review the Animal Welfare Act 2002. In NSW, animal welfare inspectors can inspect facilities where animals are kept or used for commercial purposes at any time without notice. That’s what we need here.

If you want to help make positive change for the welfare of horses, you can contribute to the review either by making a written submission to the review panel before 25 November or by attending one of the public forums being held soon.

More details are available from the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development. Visit their website at: https://www.agric.wa.gov.au/animalwelfare/review-animal-welfare-act-2002

Don’t miss this opportunity to help prevent cruelty to horses in WA.

Lynne Bradshaw AM