Bha hits back on whip rule u-turn
OFFICIALS at the British Horseracing Authority have defended changes to the whip regulations in the wake of criticism from the RSPCA.
David Muir, equine consultant at the RSPCA, described the new moves as "a backward step" and "absolutely staggering", and complained about a lack of consultation ahead of the alterations announced following a BHA board meeting earlier in the week.
BHA communications consultant John Maxse said: "I'd want to make the point that the BHA's commitment to horse welfare remains as strong as it has ever been.
"First and foremost, the BHA greatly values the relationship it has with David Muir and the RSPCA and there are forthcoming meetings scheduled in the near future at which we look forward to discussing a range of issues with them, including the whip.
"The areas in question regarding the changes primarily relate to incidents at the very margin of whether a rider's use of the whip is in breach or not. Areas in that margin do not pose any kind of threat to the welfare of the horse.
"It is important to say there is absolutely no slight on the RSPCA or any other welfare body in relation to the absence of a form of consultation prior to Tuesday's announcement.
"The only organisation with whom the BHA held any kind of form of consultation was the Professional Jockeys Association.
"The RSPCA were not intentionally left out, nor were the National Trainers Federation, or the Racehorse Owners Association. No other organisation was directly involved.
"Such was the extensive nature of the consultation that went into the Whip Review, we have, on record, the positions of all of those parties.
"The RSPCA, World Horse Welfare and the Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SSPCA) were all notified in advance of Tuesday's board meeting that the BHA directors would be looking at the whip as a subject."
Muir said: "It is absolutely staggering that the BHA has taken such a backward step, less than six months after the whip rules were introduced to react to public concern regarding the use of the whip in racing.
"The BHA has not seen fit to discuss the need for such changes with any other of the review stakeholders, including the RSPCA and other animal welfare groups, yet they have seen it necessary to change the rules and penalty structure in favour of the jockeys.
"This action flies in the face of scientific research which shows that excessive use of the whip actually increases the likelihood of falls, some of which produce injury or fatality, apparently supported by the short-term statistics available.
"This is a black day for the racing industry but the real losers are the horses -- jockeys are once again allowed to use the whip excessively without a relatively strong preventative punitive element."