Strategic plan for equine welfare released in Great Britain

By: Tom LaMarra

Posted: Feb. 20, 2020

The Horse Welfare Board in Great Britain has released a five-year strategic plan for the welfare of horses bred for racing purposes.

The report, issued Feb. 20, focuses on four outcomes: the best possible quality of life for equines; collective lifetime responsibility for them; the best possible safety programs; and the growth and maintenance of the public trust.

The Horse Welfare Board, which notes it is independently chaired, in a release discussed the reasons for the blueprint.

“The board recognized that the sport is already focused on horse welfare and that numerous welfare strategies exist across the sport,” the release states. “Trainers, racecourses, jockeys, staff and more all play their part alongside a regulatory environment based on robust inspection, licensing and training. Together, this has made racing safer for horses and jockeys and all contributes to the high quality of life enjoyed by thoroughbred horses.

“However, before today the sport did not have a single, overarching welfare strategy that coordinates the contributions made by all parts of the industry, with an ambitious vision for every horse bred to race. As such, it has the full support of the (British Horseracing Authority) and its members, representing competitors and racecourses.”

The strategic plan identifies “the value of data in informing veterinary care and the prevention of injury and illness. It articulates the ethical case for horses’ participation in sport and leisure and the need for better use of high-impact communications to tell racing’s story. It also commits to develop a code of ethics to provide a transparent framework for decision-making around all aspects of a racehorse’s care and well-being.”

British Horse Welfare Board strategic plan

The lengthy document noted that regulation of equine welfare has been widely discussed, and that the BHA’s regulatory authority “does not extend fully across all areas covered in this strategy.” In the United States, the Association of Racing Commissioners International has noted a need for regulation before a horse runs its first race.

“Breeding, pre-training, sales and aftercare, as well as aspects of data and traceability processes, are not subject to full regulation,” the Horse Welfare Board strategic plan states. “The limits on regulation are discussed in this strategy with reference not only to the welfare of horses bred for racing throughout all stages of their lives, but also in relation to the reputational risk that racing’s regulated ‘core’ carries on behalf of unregulated (or partially regulated) sectors within the wider racing and bloodstock industry.”

The report also goes on to say: “Racing jurisdictions with statutory regulation are not immune to welfare issues and breaches. A self-regulating model arguably ensures that the sport takes more responsibility for welfare, recognizing that it alone is accountable if things go wrong. British racing must retain an appreciation that self-regulation is a privilege, not a right, be willing to engage constructively with government, and recognize that, if standards were to slip or fall short of expectations, the whole sport, not just the regulator, would be held to account.”