10th August 2021
We are regularly told, particularly by the BHA, of the importance of the public perception of horseracing and, especially, horse welfare within horseracing. The BHA have even launched a public consultation on the use of the whip in horseracing and anyone can have their say online. Is this a good idea? I don’t think so and I fear it is a sad reflection on the administrator when they lack the confidence to make decisions in the best interests of the sport and its participants, both equine and human, without consulting the public.
Dare I say that the public are not very good at making decisions or driving policy on animal welfare. Take the case of Geronimo the alpaca, for example. 100,000 people have signed an online petition calling for the Government to intervene and prevent him being euthanised by DEFRA after he tested positive for bovine tuberculosis, twice. Yesterday, a group – granted, there may only have been around 30 of them – ‘marched’ on Downing Street in protest. His owner says that the tests are unreliable. The tests are, it is said, 99.98% accurate. One in 5,000 uninfected animals can give a false positive test. Geronimo has tested positive twice.
I can’t remember but I wonder how many people protested about the slaughter of 6,000,000 cattle and sheep during the 2001 Foot and Mouth outbreak. Tuberculosis is a zoonotic disease – one which can spread from animals to humans – and the main cause of human infection is bovine tuberculosis. Foot and Mouth disease is not a zoonotic disease, it does not infect people, or horses, and it is not a killer of cattle or sheep and yet the public were wholeheartedly behind the eradication policy despite the necessity for the slaughter of millions of animals.
So much for the public perception of animal welfare. We should not be relying on it to guide welfare policy in horseracing.