A study commissioned by the RSPCA has put the issue of whip use back in the spotlight after it found a horse’s skin had a similar pain response to human skin.
The study was funded by the RSPCA and led by veterinary pathologist Dr Lydia Tong and the Sydney School of Veterinary Science’s Professor Paul McGreevy.
It compared the outer layer of skin from horses and humans and found no significant difference.
“This means that it is likely that horses respond to tactile pressure in a similar way to humans,” McGreevy said.
“Horses have thick skin – but it’s the outer layer of skin that matters when it comes to how they feel pain.
“What we found is that it’s very likely that if whips hurt humans – which they unquestionably do – they also hurt horses.”
The use of the whip in racing continues to be a contentious and divisive issue.
There are many who believe it does not hurt the horses because it is padded and it is viewed as a necessary safety device for jockeys.
However, in September, Racing Victoria called for national whip reform and said it needed to be gradually phased out as a persuasive implement to meet community expectations.
At the time, RV proposed an initial reduction to the amount of times a jockey was allowed to use the whip in a race and wanted a new framework in place by the start of 2021.
It said it was planning to seek a vote on the issue at the Racing Australia (RA) board meeting in November, which took place this week.
RA chief executive Myles Foreman said the organisation’s review of the rules around riding were continuing.
“The Racing Australia board previously established a process to review riding protocols and that review is ongoing,” Foreman said.
RSPCA Australia chief scientist Dr Bidda Jones has implored racing officials to take action on the back of the study’s findings, which were released on Thursday.
“The evidence is now in to pave the way for whip-free racing to be introduced in Australia, as it has in other parts of the world,” Bidda said.