Representatives from across the Australian political divide have rallied behind Thoroughbred breeding as the industry committed to tackling any issue around welfare in response to a TV report showing ex-racehorses being subjected to appalling cruelty at an abattoir in Queensland.
Ministers, shadow ministers, MPs and senators met industry leaders at Parliament House in Canberra for an annual event organised by Thoroughbred Breeders Australia (TBA) and the Parliamentary Friends of Primary Producers.
There was praise for the industry’s response to animal welfare issues raised in the ABC report 7.30 about retired Thoroughbreds last week. Deputy Prime Minister, Nationals Leader and Riverina MP Michael McCormack said, “No breeder, no jockey, no trainer, no self-respecting person in the racing industry would want to see horses end up that way. It’s just not the way racing does things.”
McCormack praised the racing and breeding industries for boosting employment and economic outcomes for regional Australia. “Whether it’s a little dusty country race track out in the middle of nowhere, or whether it’s the Murrumbidgee Turf Club which is a magnificent facility in Wagga Wagga and everything in between,” he said.
“Well done to you breeders, you owners and everyone involved. This government will always back you every step of the way, I know I share bipartisanship when I say that.”
Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese labeled what was shown on 7.30 as an outrage. “I’m confident that your industry will work your butt off,” he said. “You’ll open yourselves up to scrutiny because you don’t want any taint whatsoever.”
He said the combined racing and breeding industries provided almost $10 billion to Australia’s economy and about 90,000 jobs. “I say on behalf of the Labor Party, it’s good you’ve got on the front foot,” the party’s leader said. “It’s important governments take action where appropriate as well.”
Albanese said the national economy and people’s quality of life couldn’t afford for the industry to be damaged. “We can’t afford, for what is overwhelmingly such a positive experience, to be damaged as well. We will do anything we can do to provide assistance.”
TBA chief executive Tom Reilly, who spoke first, said the racing and breeding industries had been under intense scrutiny in the past week. “I, like every breeder, every owner and every trainer I’ve spoken to, was horrified by what we saw,” he said. “What we saw was not the industry I know.”
He said the industry needed to ensure the highest care of horses and commit to ensuring every animal leaving racing had the chance of a productive career.
“We have the courage and we have the determination to ensure that we have an industry that we can all be proud of,” Reilly said. “We must address the issues the ABC has raised. As an industry we will be judged by our response.”
The TBA has called for the establishment of a national welfare task force, including all stakeholders and independent experts.
Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne, who breeds and races horses, attended the event, along with high-ranking diplomats from premier racing nations. New Zealand High Commissioner Dame Annette King, Chinese Ambassador Cheng Jingye, Singapore High Commissioner Kwok Fook Seng and Irish Ambassador Breandán Ó Caollaí were among the guests.