Our own ‘Black Beauty’ Campaign…

In common with Animal Aid and other animal rights and welfare groups and individuals, Quaker Concern for Animals has always been extremely perturbed by the whipping of horses – the only animal it is legal to beat in this country.

In April 2011, a combination of events led us to devote deeper thought to this issue. As a result of the behaviour of Jason Maguire, the jockey on Ballabriggs, the winning horse in the Grand National, there was even more disgust expressed by the general public about the whipping of horses than about the height of the fences.

On April 11, the clerk read an excellent article by James Lawton, sports correspondent of the Independent – entitled Now we see the real use of the whip – to drive a horse past endurance.

To the outsider, the rational response to the beating of horses, examined in great detail in Animal Aid reports, such as the very comprehensive and recent Beaten to the Line, would seem to be to ban the whip completely. However, the governing body, the British Horseracing Authority (BHA), stipulates that jockeys must carry a whip.

On April 21, the Telegraph reported that Towcester racecourse, one of the 60 in the country, took the decision, from Oct 5 and at all fixtures afterwards, to ban the conventional use of whips. Races will henceforth be run under rules currently in place for the ‘hands and heels’ series of races.

“This series, run in conjunction with the British and Northern racing schools, is staged at a number of tracks both Flat and jumping, and is ostensibly to teach inexperienced jockeys and amateur riders how to get the best out of a horse without recourse to the whip.

One of the rules of that series is that jockeys must carry a whip. They can pull it through from one hand to the other as often as they like and hit a horse down the shoulder with it in a backhand position. However, they cannot smack a horse down the neck in the forehand position, behind the saddle or encourage it by waving the whip parallel to its head.”

QCA discussed the issue at our AGM on May 7.

After consultation with Fiona Pereira at Animal Aid, and with the RSPCA, via our Scientific Advisor, Angela Walder, we wrote to commend the Towcester directors for this step in the right direction.

We also wrote to the British Horseracing Authority and The Jockey Club to ask them to endorse this ban on the conventional whip.

However, a report on their web site had revealed that the subject had already arisen and was under investigation. On April 29, the BHA had confirmed the timescales for the reviews being carried out into the Rules of Racing relating to use of the whip, and they agreed the findings would be published and agreed actions implemented by October 2011.

We noted that the RSPCA is closely involved in this review and we read with great interest the letter published in the Independent on May 10 by their Equine Consultant David Muir.

The welfare of horses is a particularly Quakerly concern; it was the book Black Beauty which, in 1877, some 20 years before our animal welfare group was inaugurated, was instrumental in raising awareness about the compassionate treatment of this wonderful animal – and the author Anna Sewell was of Quaker stock.
We have now written to the 59 racecourses which still operate under the current rules, asking them to emulate the Towcester decision, and are appealing for the support of The British Equine Veterinary Association, World Horse Welfare and rescue groups. We have written to the Minister for Sport, Hugh Robertson and are also eliciting the opinions of the racing correspondents of the national press.
Animal Aid’s position:

We [also] call for a ban on the use of the whip in racing. It is our view that jockeys should be allowed to carry a whip but be prohibited from using it except in an extreme situation where safety is genuinely an issue – e.g. if the trajectory of the horse changes so as to put the horse, rider or spectators in danger.

www.animalaid.org.uk. Go to Campaigns.

We shall update this article as, hopefully, we receive replies and more information.