For Immediate Release:
October 8, 2021
David Perle 202-483-7382
Tasmania, Australia – Today, PETA Australia filed criminal charges in the Magistrates Court of Tasmania alleging that the whipping of horses at Tasmanian race courses violates the state’s animal welfare laws. In some Australian states, private citizens can pursue convictions for violations of certain criminal laws.
Use of whips in Thoroughbred racing in Australia is essentially self-regulated by the industry. The Australian Rules of Racing permit jockeys to whip horses up to five times prior to the final 100 meters of a race and an unlimited number of times in the final stretch. Under Tasmania’s animal welfare statute, beating an animal and causing an animal unreasonable and unjustifiable pain or suffering are crimes. The proceedings brought by PETA Australia will test the legality of whipping horses on racetracks on both fronts.
“PETA Australia believes that striking a horse on a racetrack is a criminal offence in many Australian states and territories,” says PETA Senior Vice President Kathy Guillermo. “But tracks Down Under aren’t voluntarily restricting whipping, as many in the U.S. are.”
Earlier this year, New Jersey banned all whipping to urge Thoroughbreds to increase speed, and California and Kentucky have restricted whip use. In 1982, Norway banned the use of whips except for safety reasons, and in 2009, it banned the presence of whips entirely for horses 3 years and older.
PETA Australia and the Coalition for the Protection of Racehorses (CPR) met with the animal welfare manager for Tasracing, Tasmania’s racing authority, more than a year ago to express concern over the use of whips, point out that whipping violates the state’s anti-cruelty statute, and offer support to help implement changes. PETA Australia and other animal protection groups—World Animal Protection, CPR, and Animal Liberation NSW—then cosigned a letter to Tasracing asking for a meeting to discuss the issues and see if there were a way forward. PETA Australia’s attorney then met with Tasracing CEO Paul Eriksson in person, but Eriksson refused to engage further and informed PETA Australia that Tasracing had no plans to explore banning or restricting whips. Faced with ongoing widespread violation of the welfare laws, PETA Australia chose to file the private prosecution.
PETA opposes speciesism, a human-supremacist worldview. For more information on the group’s investigative newsgathering and reporting, please visit PETA.org or follow the group on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.