Newly elected Greens MLA Jo Clay has tabled a petition which calls on the ACT Government to withdraw all public funding from Thoroughbred Park and labelled the horse racing industry “out of step with community expectations in the ACT”.
Funding currently sits at around $7.5 million for all racing codes in the ACT.
Ms Clay tabled the petition in the Legislative Assembly on Wednesday (2 December) which claimed that the horses live and die “at the behest of an industry with questionable ethics and subject to allegations of links with organised crime”.
“Despite protestations about jobs and ‘loving their animals’ the primary motivator is financial and personal success and glory for the trainers and owners – not the horses,” said the petition*, which was tabled with 674 signatures.
“The extreme mental and physical suffering these sentient beings experience ‘for fun’ is not acceptable to most Canberrans.
“Horses lead an unnatural and restricted life while racing, and at worst end up as ‘wastage’ in an industry that has no more use for them. They are stabled most of the day, unable to graze and suffer horrific injuries, occasionally visible, such as the seven horses that have died during the Melbourne Cup over the last seven years.”
The call has been dismissed by the ACT Government who will stand by its memorandum of understanding with the Canberra Racing Club and Canberra Harness Racing.
Ahead of this year’s election, ACT Labor said it intended to renew the MoU when it expires on 30 June 2022 due to the “economic and social benefits that arise from a well-managed, sustainable and well-regulated horse racing industry”.
“An MoU provides certainty for the sector, and sets out the Government’s expectations regarding industry management in exchange for government support, especially the ongoing welfare of racing horses and the workplace rights of those employed in the sector.”
However, the move would not be unprecedented after the ACT Government banned greyhound racing in 2018.
The sector brings in nearly $55 million for the ACT economy. Ms Clay called for the funding to be redirected to support Canberra’s arts and entertainment industry.
She also used her first question time in the ACT Assembly to question the Government’s investment of the fossil fuel industry.
Chief Minister Andrew Barr said that only $36 million of the Territory’s $5 billion of investment is in listed companies with fossil fuel exposure.
Canberra Racing Club has been contacted for comment.
* The original article attributed the quote to Ms Clay instead of the petition.