At knackeries across NSW, retired racehorses are now being slaughtered for pet food, some potentially in clear defiance of strict recent racing industry welfare standards meant to avoid the inhumane treatment of thoroughbreds.
Between March and August this year, hours of footage captured by animal activists showed that up to a dozen named former racehorses or newly retired breeding mares were killed in one knackery.
On Thursday, Racing NSW opened an inquiry after it was given hidden-camera video, invoices and log books by The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age from two northern NSW knackeries.
A seven-year – old gelding, which won five country races and $120,000 in prize money, is believed to be among the horses killed and last raced at Queanbeyan in December last year, just four months before it was slaughtered.
NSW Racing’s general manager of integrity, Marc van Gestel, said the state was the only body in Australia that had prohibited horses in its jurisdiction from being sent to a knackery or abattoir.
“If Racing NSW’s investigations establish that any of those horses remained in the ownership of persons under [its] jurisdiction, Racing NSW will prosecute those persons for any breaches of its rules,” Mr van Gestel said.
“To further address this issue, Racing NSW is also lobbying the NSW government to make it a criminal offence in NSW for any thoroughbred horse to be sent to a knackery, even if they have been rehomed to persons outside of racing.”
Racing NSW adopted laws and legislation in 2017 where, after it exits the racing industry, no owner or handler can bring their horse somewhere other than a decent home. The regulations also mandate that no horse be sent directly to a knackery or directly to a saleyard, from where a knackery may end up. At the moment, animal health was one of the “great problems” racing will have over the next five years, NSW manager Peter V’Landys said, and NSW will be proactive in ensuring it.
For any found breaking the laws, fines may be imposed, but critics have long argued that the company loses influence of where the horses end up and how they are handled and wants a mechanism for tracing animals.