Racehorses registered to race in Britain will have to be taken off the food chain from January, BBC Sport can reveal.
The British Horseracing Authority (BHA) rule change will mean horses cannot be sent to slaughterhouses in exchange for money to be slaughtered for food.
Transporting horses to a slaughterhouse to be sold for consumption was “not an approach that we should condone in our sport” and should not be “classified as euthanasia,” said James Given, director of health and education. equine welfare from BHA.
In July, a BBC Panorama investigation found that 4,000 former racehorses – some once owned and trained by prominent industry figures and most trained in Ireland – have since been slaughtered in Britain and Ireland. early 2019.
Indicative data held by the racing authorities suggests that 12% of them were killed in Britain.
Given explained that one of the main reasons for the rule change was that all racehorses could be treated with the most appropriate medication if they were injured at a racetrack.
Currently, no horse not excluded from the human food chain can receive certain drugs, such as the pain reliever phenylbutazone or “bute”.
Starting next year, horses can still be sent to a slaughterhouse as a humane slaughter method, but can no longer be sold for food.
The rule was proposed in January by the BHA veterinary committee, but had to be approved by the organization’s board and rules committee, which came last month.
It applies to all locally trained riders in Great Britain and means entries are not accepted if it has not been declared – through the Weatherbys app and the horse’s passport – that the horse is not not intended for human consumption.
The intention is that it covers international runners, and the BHA is currently liaising with other jurisdictions.
However, a leading charity warned that this was not the “welfare panacea it might appear” and warned that an “underground trade” could still allow people to bend the rules.
Given told BBC Sport: “There are a number of welfare issues [behind this]. I think it’s a great development.
“This follows work done last year by the Horse Welfare Board to develop euthanasia guidelines and a decision tree to help people get through a very difficult time.
“The four key stakeholder groups were all consulted and all unanimously agreed that this was the right thing to do, and of course the Panorama program underlined its need even more.”
In a statement, he added: “Transporting horses to a slaughterhouse to be sold for consumption should not, in my opinion, be qualified as euthanasia and is not an approach that we must tolerate in our sport, it is This is why a rule prohibiting this practice is a positive step.
“I have no doubt that most UK coaches and owners agree with me on this point and already observe this principle.”
The secret recording of the Panorama investigation raised concerns over how horses were being killed at one of the UK’s largest slaughterhouses.
Other issues that came to light included horses being transported hundreds of miles from Ireland and some carriers of career-threatening injuries.
The slaughterhouse, Drury and Sons, told Panorama that they “take great care to maintain high welfare conditions and do not accept any form of animal abuse.”
World Horse Welfare Managing Director Roly Owers told BBC Sport: “This is an interesting development, but like any change, it must avoid unintended consequences.
“Removing horses from the food chain is not the panacea for welfare it might seem and it will be important for the BHA to monitor the impact of this change and take action if necessary.
“Likewise, this change will make the need for lifelong liability and traceability for all old racehorses even more important, as the slaughterhouse will no longer be an outlet.
“And until there is a robust digital equine identification system, there is always a risk that some racehorses will be smuggled into the food chain as part of an underground trade which we know , carries serious risks for the welfare of equines. “