The RSPCA has admitted for the first time it sends broken-down racehorses to slaughterhouses in New South Wales where their carcasses are processed into pet food.
The animal welfare body has been one of the strongest critics of thoroughbreds being sent to abattoirs and knackeries once they are retired from the racing industry.
RSPCA New South Wales told Daily Mail Australia it sometimes sent stock including thoroughbreds for commercial slaughter if no other option was available.
‘On occasion the only mechanism for disposing of very diseased, unwell or aged stock animals is via abattoir or knackery facilities,’ a spokeswoman said.
‘RSPCA NSW has in the past sent stock to abattoir, and continues to do so in a variety of circumstances.’
One of the knackeries RSPCA NSW has used in the past is Burns Pet Foods in Sydney which featured in a recent ABC expose alleging thoroughbreds were being slaughtered on an industrial scale.
RSPCA NSW says it is sometimes forced to send animals including thoroughbreds to abattoirs and knackeries. Each state has its own RSPCA. Pictured are starving horses seized by RSPCA inspectors on a property in Western Australia in 2016
The ABC’s 7.30 program screened footage of thoroughbreds being mistreated in an abattoir in south-east Queensland (pictured) and alleged hundreds of Australian racehorses were being sent to slaughter every year. Pictured is a dead horse on the floor of the Queensland abattoir
One of the knackeries RSPCA NSW has used in the past is Burns Pet Foods in Sydney which featured in a recent expose by the ABC suggesting thoroughbreds were being slaughtered on an industrial scale
Daily Mail Australia has been provided with an invoice from November 2012 which shows RSPCA NSW paying $300 for the transport of two horses including the delivery of one ‘TB mare’ to ‘Burns PF’.
‘TB’ means thoroughbred. ‘Burns PF’ is Burns Pet Foods at Riverstone.
Burns Pet Foods, which processes horse meat for consumption by animals, has recently been prosecuted by the RSPCA for cruelty to cattle and sheep.
The company pleaded guilty in September to four counts of aggravated animal cruelty and one of failing to provide veterinary treatment.
It is not suggested the horses sent by RSPCA NSW to the knackery were in any way mistreated.
RSPCA NSW did not dispute the receipt showed a delivery to Burns Pet Foods but said the horses might have been euthanised before being taken there.
A spokesman said it was possible the animals had been in a condition which made it cruel to keep them alive and they were delivered dead to Burns Pet Foods.
‘RSPCA NSW notes further that the obligation to rehome thoroughbreds by industry participants has only existed since 2017,’ the spokesman said.
This invoice from a horse transport company dated November 2012 shows RSPCA NSW paying for the delivery of a ‘TB [thoroughbred] mare’ to ‘Burns PF [Pet Foods]’, a Sydney knackery
Footage aired on the ABC in October shows healthy thoroughbreds being mistreated and slaughtered for consumption in an investigation which has shaken the racing industry
In October the ABC’s 7.30 program screened footage of thoroughbreds being mistreated in an abattoir in south-east Queensland and alleged hundreds of Australian racehorses were being sent to slaughter every year.
Hidden cameras showed that in just 22 days, more than 300 racehorses – winners of a combined $5million in prize money – were killed in the abattoir.
The report cited Racing Australia data which claimed fewer than 1 per cent of ex-racehorses were sent to abattoirs or knackeries, which would be 34 each year.
The ABC aired allegations animals sent to the Queensland abattoir were beaten, repeatedly stunned with electric prods and kicked while they were dying.
An RSPCA Queensland spokesman said that state body had never sent stock including thoroughbreds to abattoirs or knackeries under any circumstances.
Hidden camera footage provided to the ABC showed horses being mistreated at an abattoir in south-east Queensland (pictured). An RSPCA Queensland spokesman said the state body had never sent stock including thoroughbreds to abattoirs or knackeries under any circumstances
RSPCA Australia has said the oversupply and ‘wastage’ of horses in the racing industry led to animals being slaughtered. Pictured are starving horses seized by the RSPCA from a property in Western Australia in 2016
The day after the program screened RSPCA Australia’s acting CEO Bidda Jones said the oversupply and ‘wastage’ of horses in the racing industry had led to animals being slaughtered.
‘Like all Australians who saw last night’s program, we were shocked and horrified – but sadly, not surprised – at the fate of of Australian thoroughbred and harness racing horses sent for slaughter, and the industry’s alarming lack of acknowledgement or control over this,’ Dr Jones said.
‘Sadly, Australian racing authorities have become experts in ignoring the obvious, because it doesn’t fit with their desired image.’
It took RSPCA NSW almost a month to respond to questions about whether it ever sent animals – particularly thoroughbreds – to knackeries.
A statement was eventually provided with input from the RSPCA inspectorate, which investigates allegations of animal mistreatment, and the body’s own legal counsel.
A spokeswoman stressed she could speak on behalf of only RSPCA NSW and not the other state branches of the organisation which all operate independently.
While confirming it sometimes disposed of stock through abattoirs and knackeries RSPCA NSW did not say how often it did so.
The slaughter of racehorses is not illegal in Australia but is against Racing NSW rules, which state all retired thoroughbreds should be re-homed
Asked to clarify if ‘stock’ included thoroughbreds, RSPCA NSW cited the Department of Primary Industries’ use of the word.
‘RSPCA NSW uses the DPI definition of stock – so that includes horses of all descriptions, including thoroughbreds,’ it said.
The spokeswoman said RSPCA NSW received ‘many thousands’ of stock animals each year ‘under many different circumstances’.
It took in surrendered, stray and impounded animals, those seized by inspectors for prosecution of owners and for the administration of seize and sell provisions of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act.
‘The decision as to how to maintain the animals, in what circumstances, for how long, and whether they should be euthanised is determined by the purpose for which they come into our custody, and a variety of other factors,’ the RSPCA NSW spokeswoman said.
‘That includes determining whether the animal is in a condition which requires immediate euthanasia, in which case the stock will be humanely euthanised, and then either buried or transported to appropriate facilities for disposal.’
RSPCA NSW makes those decisions based on the advice of experienced vets including experts from Sydney University’s Veterinary Teaching Hospital.
The RSPCA takes in thousands of animals every year and some are unable to be saved. Pictured are horses in a yard at the Queensland abattoir featured on the ABC’s 7.30 program
WHAT RSPCA AUSTRALIA SAID ABOUT ABC’S ABATTOIR EXPOSE
Following the expose on ABC 7.30 last night, Australian racing must no longer deny the need for action to address serious welfare issues in its industry, says RSPCA Australia Acting CEO Dr Bidda Jones.
‘Like all Australians who saw last night’s program, we were shocked and horrified – but sadly, not surprised – at the fate of of Australian thoroughbred and harness racing horses sent for slaughter, and the industry’s alarming lack of acknowledgement or control over this.
‘There are two issues here: first, the appalling handling and slaughter practices at the Queensland abattoir shown – Meramist Abattoir at Caboolture – which, as an export abattoir, comes under federal government regulation.
‘And second, the oversupply and wastage of horses in the racing industry which has led to these horses ending up at abattoirs or knackeries.
‘What has been allowed to take place at the abattoir should be a matter for urgent investigation and intervention by the Australian Government Department of Agriculture.
‘However, the Australian racing industry cannot claim to be surprised by this footage, and must not be allowed to dodge their responsibility for the numbers of horses that are being bred, as well as those ultimately sent to slaughter.
‘The RSPCA along with many other welfare groups has urged action to reduce wastage and improve standards when horses are slaughtered for years.
‘Sadly, Australian racing authorities have become experts in ignoring the obvious, because it doesn’t fit with their desired image.
‘Racing authorities repeatedly claim that animal welfare is “paramount”, yet they don’t want to admit that racehorses are being slaughtered or to admit they should take responsibility for ensuring that horses are treated well throughout their lives – not just when they are generating a profit.
‘To put it bluntly, Racing Australia, Harness Racing Australia, and the state racing bodies need to get real.
‘It’s clear they have completely lost control of the way racehorses are managed in their industry, from how they are treated while training and racing, to their fate after racing.
‘As a matter of urgency, they must put measures in place to ensure the number of horses prematurely exiting racing is dramatically reduced, and put proper standards and monitoring in place to ensure all racehorses have humane treatment throughout their lives, from beginning to end,’ said Dr Jones.
Source: RSPCA Australia statement October 18, 2019
Where seize and sell proceedings are commenced, the decision is made by a stock welfare panel.
Horses, sheep and cattle can be deemed so nutritionally deprived they are fit only for transport to an abattoir or agistment.
In that case they are considered unsuitable to be put through saleyards or to travel long distances.
‘Where there is no suitable agistment available, such stock can be processed through abattoir or knackery facilities,’ the spokeswoman said.
Daily Mail Australia accepts RSPCA NSW does not send fit and healthy animals to abattoirs or knackeries.
The RSPCA NSW spokeswoman reiterated the charity’s opposition to retired racehorses being sent to slaughterhouses.
‘RSPCA NSW believes that the implementation of legal welfare standards for racehorses, to eliminate practices that cause injury, pain, suffering or distress, is an urgent government priority,’ she said.
‘We believe provisions should be made to ensure thoroughbreds are not sent to abattoirs or knackeries.’
Protesters wave banners and shout slogans at racegoers as they leave Flemington racecourse after the Melbourne Cup last month
The slaughter of racehorses is not illegal in Australia but since October 2017 has been against Racing NSW rules, which state all retired thoroughbreds should be re-homed.
Veterinarian and ethologist Professor Paul McGreevy told the ABC the revelations about widespread destruction of racehorses would ‘shake the industry to its core.’
‘This is a clear breach of everything the industry has told us,’ Professor McGreevy told the national broadcaster.
‘The truth that has been revealed is that thoroughbreds are entering knackeries and abattoirs and that their treatment within those facilities can be appalling.’
Racing NSW chief executive Peter V’landys initially responded to the 7.30 allegations by saying he was unaware of any thoroughbreds being sent to slaughterhouses in his state.
He said if that had been occurring ‘the full force of the law’ would be used against those breaking the rules.