Ms PATTEN (Northern Metropolitan) (09:56): I rise to speak briefly on this motion. I was just reminded of how beautiful horses are and how wonderful it is to see them run. I was reminded because across the river from our property is actually one of those places that Ms Shing spoke about, a place where retired horses actually do go. Watching them race up the hill in the morning, racing against each other—it was such a natural state of being, and it was so beautiful.
So we know that these horses love to run, and it is a natural state of being. So why do we need a whip? Why do we need horse tongue-ties? I note that in 2018 Reason, our party and me, spoke at length about the use of tongue-ties. That was back in 2018. We know that a tongue-tie is a strap that immobilises a horse’s tongue, attaching it to the lower jaw and is believed to prevent airway obstruction while racing, although there is not a lot of science around that. In fact there is now a pilot going on around not using ties in the racing industry. We have seen things like nylon ties be prohibited in the racing industry, and I think right now we are actually probably seeing the end of the use of ties in the racing industry in Australia; that is good, because they are cruel.
Now, whipping a horse—whipping any animal, anything—is illegal in most circumstances, except for this small exception to that rule—that is, that a jockey in a thoroughbred race can strike the horse up to five times during the race and pretty much every second stride in that last 100 metres. Jockeys have been fined for over-whipping, many times. In fact in the last two Melbourne Cups jockeys were fined for over-whipping. Now, I do not think that fine really stopped the celebrations. I do not think that fine really dug in very deep into the prize money that they had received or the earnings that the owners of those horses had received. So, as a rule, those fines do not really act as a deterrent.
In 2020 Racing Victoria conceded that the current whipping rules were not really appropriate and that we needed to reform. So I think Mr Meddick’s motion here actually has extraordinarily widespread support. In fact it is hard to find people who do not seem to agree with it. In fact in Victoria they attempted to trial whip-free. And one assumes, if those horses love racing as much as they do, and they love running as much as I could see across the river from my place, they would not need a whip to continue them racing. If nobody used whips, if it was only hands and feet in the race, it would be a level playing field, as it were—a level racing field, as it were.
It seems anachronistic in the 21st century that we provide an exception to whip an animal. If we saw someone whipping an animal in our streets, we would be outraged. If we saw an animal being whipped on a farm, we would be outraged. Yet we have this exemption for thoroughbred horseracing.
Now, we know that the community is behind us, and that includes the punters—they do not want to see a whip. I think Mr Meddick’s motion is a very modest motion. It is saying, ‘Let’s renew this conversation about the use of whips; let’s trial something different’. And it seems Racing Victoria is behind this, the community is behind this and I would probably say that even the vast majority of the industry is behind this.
We are in I suppose a very different time than when thoroughbred racing first started. We have seen the gradual removal of whip usage, we have seen the gradual decline of it, and we have seen the regulations be strengthened. I think Mr Meddick is on the right course. I think he has got the RSPCA behind him and he has got the community behind him. I would hope to see not only Racing Victoria but Racing Australia get behind this. I would be interested to hear jockeys getting behind this as well. Because they talk about jockey safety, and I have never been a jockey, but I do not understand how that whip that they suggest does not hurt the animal, that they suggest is not painful at all, actually keeps them safe, particularly when we are really talking about the limit of it to the last 100 metres of a race.
I wish Mr Meddick well in this. I think, as I say, it is a very modest motion. And we know where the Animal Justice Party stands on racing; there has been no secret in that. But I think when you are in this place it is about not letting the perfect get in the way of the good, and I think this is one of those motions that does that.
Fiona Patten MP
Leader of Reason
Member for Northern Metropolitan Region
Mr Meddick’s motion 15/9/21