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Saturday, December 10, 2016

Harness Racing Australia Giving the Whip the 'Heave Ho'

HRA has announced effective September 1, 2017 the use of whips in racing or training of standardbreds will be banned in Australia.  As per the Australian Broadcasting Corporation report, Harness Racing Australia Chairman Geoff Want said:

"There'll be no whips allowed on training tracks, on racetracks, stables, in any other application in our industry."
"There is compelling evidence these days that society will not tolerate continued cruelty towards animals."
"We are doing it for the image of our sport, we are doing it for the sustainability of our industry, we're doing it to secure our future."

Congratulations to the HRA for taking such a bold step.  They are absolutely right; if the sport is going to survive, whips need to be given the 'heave ho'.  The public has no desire to see whipping and it is one of the reasons why it is hard to get new punters to take interest in the sport.  Aside from the lack of growth, the pressure from anti-racing camps will surely cause the industry to collapse from the eventual lack of public and governmental support.
Of course, there are those who point out what will drivers use as an 'emergency' tool in a race; such as an unruly horse, a horse who shies away from a crowd or a shadow.  Apparently this is being taken into account.  HRA will be working with the RSPCA in developing a tool which drivers will be able to use in such situations.  Plans are for such an instrument to be ready for use by the time the whip ban comes into place.
North American harness interests should embrace this plan to get rid of the whip and start planning for its demise as soon as possible, but recognizing the unwillingness to try new things, the best we can hope for is Standardbred Canada and the USTA to keep tabs on the Australian ban and if indeed the results are as good as expected, quickly adopt a similar ban in North America.  Of course, it will be a little more difficult as the battle in the United States to ban the whip will need to take place in each racing jurisdiction, but endorsement of the ban by the USTA will make it easier to win over racing commissions who tend to support horsemen and tracks over the public interest (despite what they may say).  I would expect the soonest you would possibly see a ban in North America would be mid-to-late 2019.
We should look forward to the time the whip gets the 'heave ho' on our borders.  The sport will be better off for it.

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