REAL AUSTRALIA

Voice of Real Australia: Yes, I race horses, but that doesn't mean I approve of cruelty

Voice of Real Australia is a regular newsletter from Australian Community Media, which has journalists in every state and territory. Sign up here to get it by email, or here to forward it to a friend. Today's newsletter is written by ACM contributed content journalist Hayley Warden.

What;'s the chance of a civil debate on the racehorse issue swirling at the moment, Australia? Photo: Shutterstock

What;'s the chance of a civil debate on the racehorse issue swirling at the moment, Australia? Photo: Shutterstock

I eat red meat and I race horses.

Now I am acutely aware I am not the most popular person in certain circles at the moment.

But I am sick of sitting mute about my choice to enjoy a day at the races or, heaven forbid, eat a steak.

Like the vast majority of the population, I am appalled by animal cruelty.

Graphic vision of former racehorses being mistreated at Queensland's Meramist abattoir, which aired on ABC's 7.30 Report on October 17, has sparked outrage.

And rightly so.

Although the processing of horses in any state is not illegal, industry demands those animals be treated humanely throughout the process.

The cruelty to those horses revealed in the program was abhorrent, and those involved should be held to account by the law.

Commentary following the program has revolved around industry participants calling for change, and transparency from industry leaders. Helpful.

But of course, the program has sparked a barrage of insults and accusations levelled at just about everyone. Unhelpful.

Finger-pointing is at the heart of it.

In particular, everyone's gaze has turned to Racing NSW CEO Peter V'landys, who was interviewed for the program and has since received death threats.

In what world is that acceptable?

A whole raft of people have been dragged into the debate.

Anyone who dares to dress-up and enjoy a day at the races has been asked to reconsider their decisions.

Specifically people who sip champagne.

Anyone who ever placed a bet, owned a racehorse or attended the races are being told they should be ashamed of themselves.

On social media, self labelled animal activists are levelling abuse at trainers.

While the "top end of town" has received the most attention, what about small country race tracks that offer their communities an outlet to enjoy themselves for the day away from their drought ravaged properties?

Should they reconsider their choice to head to the local picnics?

Chynna Marston riding one of the many thoroughbred horses she has retrained. Photo: Facebook.

Chynna Marston riding one of the many thoroughbred horses she has retrained. Photo: Facebook.

Another point that has been largely missed is the cost of feeding a horse, particularly as feed costs rise due to ongoing drought.

It can cost into the hundreds of dollars a week to keep a horse and perhaps some horse owners felt selling that horse might be the only way to avoid an animal welfare issue in their own paddock.

It might even be that the income received is being used to keep other horses alive.

Of course, many of those owners will be devastated to view the images of mistreatment and will welcome an inquiry into the work processes of that abattoir.

As with any debate, there are those positioned on the far right, the far left and somewhere in between is space for sensible debate, which is where the solutions for these challenges can be found.

South Coast Register journalist Stuart Thompson interviewed Canberra's Chynna Marston.

The former jockey is a Sky Racing commentator who runs Recycled Racehorses.

She is passionate and dedicated. And typifies the majority of those involved in horse racing.

The ABC's 7.30 Report leaked footage from a Queensland abattoir which showed former racehorses branded with the markings of many recognisable Hunter Valley studs. Source: 7.30 / ABC

The ABC's 7.30 Report leaked footage from a Queensland abattoir which showed former racehorses branded with the markings of many recognisable Hunter Valley studs. Source: 7.30 / ABC

Her story highlights that the Australian thoroughbred industry is worth $9 billion and provides more than 70,000 full time jobs.

My horses have given me some of life's most precious moments. And not always on the track.

We owe it to them a chance to live out a quality life, where possible, beyond the racetrack.

But whatever side of the debate you sit on, let's try to keep it civil.

Hayley Warden,

Contributed content journalist - agricultural group, Australian Community Media

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