There are few occasions when horse racing and politics meet. But should a Labour government win power in the coming months then we are likely to see a clash between the two. Labour unveiled a new manifesto a couple of weeks ago. It is a 50-point plan to deal with animal welfare and horse racing. And specifically, the use of the whip has been targeted in this.

Labour question the use of the whip as a motivational tool. As a result, they have said they would carry out a full review into the use of it. A rider uses a whip to keep themselves and their horse safe, as well as being used to encourage the horse to race. Labour wants to target the second part of that and find out whether this is really the case or not.

It was only in July that racing was defending itself when Animal Aid launched an attack on it by advertising their views, against the whip, on London buses. At this point, trainer Mark Johnston felt that removal of the whip from racing would be a genuine threat to the sports existence.

The Response

The BHA has already announced, prior to all of this, that they are going to conduct their own review into the use of the whip. The last time this happened was in 2011, and according to the BHA, a lot of data has been collected since then.

In response to the manifesto pledge from Labour, the BHA was quick to point out their safety record over the past two years. In that time just one horse has been marked due to the use of the whip. That works out at two from a total of 225,000 runners across the last three years.

The BHA also pointed towards a new horse welfare board that had been created. This board is independently chaired by a former president of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, Mr Barry Johnson. The board has been given one simple task. That is to develop a new welfare strategy for the industry.

This is all to re-emphasise that the sport is already on top of the issues. And they are putting measures in place to ensure that if the whip does remain, it is safe to use it and will always be used in the right manner.

Although this is a key moment for horse racing in general, it should also be remembered that British horse racing has an excellent track record when it comes to the use of the whip and general animal welfare.

Before any of this happens, Labour will have to come into power. But with the possibility of a general election on the horizon, racing needs to be on the front foot here. The industry needs to put plans together to show the wider public, and the government, that the whip has a place, and it is safe to use.




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