Racing Victoria set to advocate the gradual banning of the whip – will the UK follow suit?

Big news unfolded in Australia as Racing Victoria is set to advocate the gradual banning of the whip, unless it’s used as a safety measure.

This will change the sport as we know it, and Racing Victoria has indicated a very strong view that the current rules surrounding the whip must go.

The wider community expects that “the current national whip rules are no longer appropriate and not in the best interests of Victorian and Australian racing, both now and in the long-term”.

What are the current rules?

The current whip rules in Australia allow jockeys to whip their horse a maximum five times before the 100m mark, and they can proceed to use the whip an unlimited amount of times from there.

This decision will cause huge debate not only in Australia but across the globe and in particular the United Kingdom.

Racing Victoria’s view is “that padded whips do not constitute a risk to equine welfare, however it is clear that their ongoing use is becoming less compatible with community expectations each year.”

Racing Victoria will not hang around on this matter and want to start the process to an eventual ban within a matter of months, proposing a vote at the Racing Australia Board meeting in November. Their initial proposal is that jockeys will only be allowed to whip their horse between five and eight times total per race.

“RV will propose that, from 1 January 2021, riders are only permitted to use the whip on a maximum number of occasions throughout the entire race and never in a horse’s consecutive strides. RV is proposing that the maximum number be between five and eight occasions per race,” its statement said.

The CEO has his say

Racing Victoria’s CEO Giles Thompson said its strong position on the matter is to make sure that the sport is viable with the public moving forward.

“As industry leaders, we are charged with not only managing the sport today but ensuring that it remains vibrant and successful for generations to come. Making progress on whip reform is important if we want to retain our existing audiences and ensure that we’re an attractive option for the fans and employees of tomorrow,” he said.

“It is Racing Victoria’s view that progress on whip reform is needed now, and that the industry nationally, acting in its best long-term interests, should continue to work towards a prohibition on the use of the whip for purposes other than to protect the safety of horses and jockeys. It is critical that jockeys are permitted to carry a whip to ensure their safety and jockey safety is something that we will always advocate.”

“We want to reduce the number of times the whip can be used in Victorian racing, and indeed nationally, from 2021. This would be an important step in the right direction for our industry, one that recognises the progression of community attitudes in the decade since padded whips were first introduced.

“Britain, Ireland, France, Germany and key states in the USA have either implemented or announced significant reductions in permitted whip use and have seen great competitive racing continue. At this time Australian racing has been left behind when it comes to reforms on whip use.

“The industry will always be best served by a national approach to whip reform and this is something that we desire, however to this point that has not been achievable. We believe that prompt progress on whip reform is in the best interests of Australian racing and we are encouraging the Racing Australia Board and other states to join us in making meaningful steps this year.

“In doing so, we will be consulting with our key stakeholder groups over the coming months on the implementation of specific rules that would see important whip reform achieved through a reduction in the permitted number of occasions that it can be used in a race.”

This decision could have a knock-on effect for racing in Britain. The BHA stated in March 2018 that it was looking at reviewing penalties for breaches. It said earlier this year that a review had been delayed by the coronavirus pandemic. We can expect more on the matter to surface in the coming months.

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