The horse racing industry has been warned to confront its animal welfare and integrity issues. File image
The horse racing industry has been warned to confront its animal welfare and integrity issues. File image

Horse racing industry gets a harsh warning

VICTORIAN Minister for Racing Martin Pakula has warned the sport over the spectre of being irrelevant unless it successfully confronts animal welfare and integrity issues.

Speaking at the Asian Racing Conference in Cape Town, Mr Pakula said: "There are a huge number of challenges in the racing industry, which tends to find and create challenges.

"Integrity and welfare and illegal betting have been talked about this week and government has a role in setting the framework for wagering licences, race fields legislation and taxation.

"These are important parts of the discussion between racing and government."

Referencing the growing focus on animal cruelty and the damage done by high-profile integrity issues, Mr Pakula said racing needed to act quickly.

"I don't want to be part of the last generation of racing tragics," he said,

"I want to see the support of younger fans and punters and if racing doesn't get on top of key issues including welfare there is no prospect of a next generation of members, fans, punters and participants.

"I'm someone who's been going to the races for 40 years, had a share in a horse and worked at a racetrack, I'm atypical.

"It's uncommon for cabinets to be occupied by racing tragics and with that in mind, racing needs to be very aware of what motivates governments both positively and negatively.

"Governments, for example, do not want to be seen to support any industry embroiled in scandal.

"On the other hand, governments will respond where aware of positive things including jobs creation, contribution to tourism, civic pride and economic stimulus."

Jamie Stier, Racing Victoria's executive general manager of integrity services, said the long-term welfare of every horse needed to be ensured.

"A line in the sand had been drawn and it (equine welfare) has had a severe effect on our industry."

Stier focused on four key issues - community expectations, racing's moral obligation, high-profile equine cruelty cases and racing's responsibilities.

He said: "Community expectations should be met by our own personal undertaking to provide the highest appropriate level of care for every thoroughbred horse throughout each of the three phases of its life."