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Premier Announces Inquiry Into Horse Racing Scandal

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UPDATE | The Premier has spoken out, after the ABC'S 7.30 Report lifted the lid on horrific allegations relating to the treatment of retired race horses.  

Annastacia Palaszczuk said "Anyone who viewed the 7.30 program last Thursday night and witnessed the vision of retired race horses being mistreated at a Queensland abattoir would have been sickened and appalled".  

"This was deeply disturbing, horrendous footage and I was just as appalled.

"I know that my Minister for Agriculture and along with the Minister for Racing has spoken to many racing figures in the past few days and they've all been deeply concerned about the allegations of animal abuse that surfaced.

"My Government stands with the many industry figures who love their racing animals and like them, I want to leave no stone unturned, to restore faith people quite rightly have, in the racing industry and ensure we do everything possible to stamp out animal cruelty.

Premier Palaszczuk also said "That's why today [Tuesday] I'm announcing an urgent inquiry into the treatment of retired race horses and animal welfare concerns in dealing with retired race horses at Queensland abattoirs".  

"This independent inquiry will be overseen by the Queensland Racing Integrity Commission...

She said the inquiry is necessary in order to restore faith in the industry.

Premier Palaszczuk also revealed that Biosecurity Queensland investigators visited the abattoir last week, immediately after the story aired and that investigation is ongoing.  

"Mr Speaker, the inquiry will be headed up by Retired District Court Judge Terry Martin SC" she said.  

Ms Palaszczuk added that it will be carried out with the support of Equine and Australian Veterinary Association representative Doctor Peter Reid.  

“This inquiry will determine what more we can do to make sure that we have the best possible processes in place to end cruelty to animals in Queensland.”

Minister for Racing, Multicultural Affairs and Local Government Stirling Hinchliffe said the inquiry would be headed up by retired District Court judge Terry Martin SC with the support of equine veterinary surgeon and Australian Veterinary Association representative Dr Peter Reid.

“Both Mr Martin and Dr Reid have extensive experience in their respective fields and will bring a wealth of personal and professional knowledge to their roles in the inquiry,” he said.

“I want to make sure that no stone is left unturned to restore the faith people quite rightly have in our racing industry.”

Minister for Agricultural Industry Development and Fisheries Mark Furner said animal welfare was everybody’s responsibility and Queensland would not stand for cruelty to animals.

“That is why Queensland has the toughest animal cruelty laws in Australia, including penalties of up to seven years’ jail for the most serious offences,” he said.

“Further to this, Biosecurity Queensland investigators visited the abattoir on Friday and their investigation is ongoing.”

The inquiry will also engage the expertise of the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries and is expected to report back to Ministers Hinchliffe and Furner early next year.

The inquiry will examine:

  • The regulatory and oversight arrangements for the management of retired racehorses.
  • The regulatory and oversight arrangements for the operation of facilities accepting horses for slaughter.
  • The adequacy of arrangements for detecting, assessing, mitigating and prosecuting breaches of the welfare of retired racing horses, including those moved from interstate.
  • Comparative assessment of arrangements in other states.
  • Any changes required in oversight of the tracking and welfare of retired horses.

But LNP Shadow Minister for Racing John-Paul Langbroek said "The inquiry into the abuse of retired racehorses must investigate glaring failures in the Queensland Racing Integrity Commission". 

“QRIC was set up by the Palaszczuk Labor Government at an annual cost of $30 million to taxpayers, but it’s completely failed.

“Labor’s Racing Integrity Commission received complaints about these issues and failed to deal with them.

“It took the media to expose horrendous mistreatment and shame the Palaszczuk Labor Government into taking animal welfare seriously.

“The inquiry must investigate QRIC and why it failed their own animal welfare objectives to ensure racing animals are cared for before, during and after racing.

“Otherwise, it’s just another Palaszczuk Labor Government cover-up.”

EARLIER | The Australian Veterinary Association (AVA) has said it strongly condemns the mass slaughter of horses, after the ABCs ‘The 7.30 Report’ aired a story.

The AVA is calling on the Australian government to implement a nationwide welfare standard and register to protect the welfare of all horses.

Dr Sam Nugent, President of the AVA’s Equine Veterinarians Australia (EVA) Group said, “as veterinarians, we found the treatment of the horses in the leaked video footage highly distressing. The AVA would like to see all parties involved in these illegal practices held accountable for abhorrent and illegal actions.

It is being reported that a Caboolture Abattoir was at the centre of the scandal.  

The AVA said "Abattoirs and knackeries that are breaching animal cruelty laws, as well as horse racing authorities that are not enforcing their own welfare rules for post-career horses, need to be held accountable. Breaches of animal welfare cannot be tolerated.”

"The ongoing welfare of horses after their racing career is the responsibility of the horse racing industry. We call upon racing authorities to get stronger on enforcing welfare standards for their retired racehorses. The AVA will be following up with racing authorities shortly to ensure appropriate action is taken for the welfare breaches shown on ‘The 7.30 Report’.

"Currently, welfare laws for animals are maintained at a state government level and the scope of protection for horses varies between states. Following reports of animals being moved across state boundaries for slaughter, the AVA believes that a national animal welfare standard is required to maintain welfare standards. In addition, the AVA calls for a ‘national horse register’ to be established for greater oversight of the country’s equine population. The AVA will lobby the Federal Government to implement both as soon as possible.

"The AVA and the organisation’s specialist Equine Veterinarians Australia Group advocate for the health and welfare of all horses, not just racehorses, and has policy on Humane Slaughter, which can be viewed on ava.com.au.

The Caboolture Abattoir mentioned in the story has been contacted for comment.  

By Michelle Price