Horse Racing: Animal Welfare

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs written question – answered on 16th July 2019.

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Photo of Rachael Maskell Rachael Maskell Shadow Minister (Transport)

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, pursuant to the Answer of 16 April 2019 to Question 242198 on Horse Racing: Animal Welfare, what the timescale is for improving the design of starting stalls.

Photo of David Rutley David Rutley Assistant Whip (HM Treasury), Government Whip

The Government is keen that the welfare needs of racehorses are well met, both during their racing lives and afterwards. The British Horseracing Authority (BHA) is responsible for the safety of racehorses at British racecourses and the BHA works alongside the RSPCA and World Horse Welfare to make horseracing as safe as possible.

In relation to starting stalls, the incidence of stalls fatalities is low. In 2018 there was one stalls fatality over the course of 6,591 flat races. In addition the BHA Starting Team discuss any incident which occurs in the stalls with Veterinary Officers and staff handlers to improve safety.

However, both I and the BHA consider that more can be done to make horseracing safer in general which is why I have been holding regular discussions with the BHA about this. Most recently on the 14 May, I met with the BHA as well as the new independent Chair of the BHA’s newly appointed Horse Welfare Board. This was a constructive meeting where the number of fatalities of racehorses was acknowledged and both sides agreed that further action is required to tackle avoidable harm and make the sport safer.

The Board committed to doing all it can to improve welfare outcomes. I stressed the need for the BHA in conjunction with the Horse Welfare Board to develop a robust action plan that will deliver tangible results and intend to stay in regular contact with both the BHA and newly appointed Horse Welfare Board to continue to press for improvements in racehorse welfare.

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