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Speech: Greens Introduce Bill to Ban Jumps Racing


The Hon. T.A. FRANKS (16:56): I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

I rise today to introduce this bill to at long last ban jumps racing in South Australia. This is not the first time this parliament will have considered such a ban, but I sincerely hope it will be the last. There can be no more tolerance, no more excuses, for this cruel so-called sport. Jumps racing is intrinsically dangerous and cruel to horses, and it cannot be made safe and free of animal cruelty. The only remedy for jumps racing is to ban it.

In fact, Queensland stopped jumps racing in 1903, WA stopped jumps racing in 1941 and the sport was banned in New South Wales in 1997. The last race was held in Tasmania in 2007, and it is now over 30 years since the 1991 Senate inquiry recommended that jumps racing be phased out. Victoria and South Australia are the only remaining Australian states that still retain this archaic practice, although I note that we have not seen any jumps racing scheduled for our state in the current racing season in South Australia. That is, of course, following Racing South Australia's announcement on 1 October 2021 that no jumps racing would be scheduled for this year.

Time and again, jumps racing has proven dangerous for jockeys and deadly for racehorses. This year, in the Victorian 2022 jumps racing season, we have already seen at least two horses die, and just yesterday we saw a rider dislodged and another horse have a serious fall. It is time to put an end to this carnage. This sport is dangerous to both people and animals. Jumps racing jockeys can have a fall rate of up to 12½ times higher than flat race jockeys, meaning that on average jumps jockeys can fall every 19 rides.

Further, when racing in a jumps race horses are confronted with the task of galloping at high speed and being forced to clear obstacles of considerable height while surrounded by a group of other horses attempting the same. To avoid injury or death, that horse must clear each obstacle with an accuracy that is difficult when galloping at speed.

As horses fatigue, it becomes more difficult to properly negotiate the obstacles. And fatigue is likely: jumps races are at least three kilometres long, which is one kilometre longer than flat races, and horses are required to carry heavier weights than for flat races. Moreover, jumping in a pack over obstacles places the horses at risk of collision with each other. That is why we have seen a high percentage of falls occur in the latter stages of a race.

Of the known—and I use that word advisedly—deaths in jumps racing in Australia, the majority of cases required euthanasia due to a catastrophic injury. A study by the University of Melbourne reported the risk of injury and death of a horse competing in a jumps race as 18.9 times greater than a horse competing in a flat race.

The RSPCA reports that from 2009 to 2021 at least 76 horses in Victoria and South Australia have died from injuries sustained due to jumps racing, but the death toll is believed to be much higher because the industry has not been compelled to publicly report all associated injuries and deaths.

The industry itself is ready for the end of jumps racing. Attendance is low. Injuries and deaths are high. While jumps racing accounts for a very small proportion of the horseracing industry, it accounts for almost all of the bad publicity that the industry receives. There are transition arrangements that can be made and could be made to ensure not just the welfare of these horses and not just the increased safety in the workplace of the jockeys but the reputation of this industry overall.

There are so many reasons to put an end to jumps racing in South Australia, but I always remember the words in this chamber of one of our own members, the Hon. Ian Hunter, who I believe outlined the case for banning jumps racing quite strongly in previous years, despite in the end not voting to ban this cruel practice. I would encourage members to look up the whole speech, but I will just give you a—

The Hon. I.K. Hunter: It was an excellent speech.

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS: It was an excellent speech, the Hon. Ian Hunter. It has long stayed in my memory. I quote the Hon. Ian Hunter:

…the overwhelming majority of owners in jumps racing make a loss financially on those races, and in most cases the prize money is not even enough to cover the cost of training. One wonders why they do it. Therefore, the argument that jumps racing is needed in South Australia to support our economy is kind of weak.

Supporters of jumps racing argue that without a jumps racing industry to fall back on, the many horses that do not make the grade for flat racing would be sent to the slaughterhouse. Pro jumps racing groups believe the industry saves these slower horses from premature death. I note, however, that critics of jumps racing dispute this and claim that the horses usually end up at the slaughterhouse regardless, with most jumps racing horses running in five or fewer races in their short career.

Despite calls to ban this sport due to animal welfare concerns, jumps racing supporters firmly believe that horses actually enjoy jumping obstacles because it is something they were born to do, but experts such as the University of Sydney's Dr Paul McGreevy disagree. Dr McGreevy argues that in the wild, horses jump only when they need to do so; that is, if they are being chased and they have to go over a fallen tree, fence or some other obstacle. They are, after all, a prey animal. Dr McGreevy argues that in the wild, horses will generally go around an object if they can and jump only when necessary.

The University of Kentucky's equine expert, Dr Thomas Tobin, maintains that the bone structure of a horse is not designed to jump obstacles for extended periods of time, and that long periods of sustained jumping will significantly increase the risk of a horse breaking bones. Whether it is a natural inclination for horses to jump or not, there is no disputing the statistics that reveal that jumps horses face an increased risk of injury and death compared to horses run on the flat.

The Hon. Ian Hunter went on to then say:

In summary, while I will not be voting in support of this motion at this point in time, I think the jumps racing industry should really try to engage with the facts and not try to brush these concerns under the carpet.

The evidence of the suffering and cruelty caused by jumps racing is overwhelming. This sport has no place in our state. Even Racing SA is moving away from scheduling these cruel races. I know that for a long time now jumps racing has had certainly sponsors move away from it in droves.

The evidence is in. I recognise, as with the other time the banning of jumps racing has been raised, that there will be those who decry the loss of a tradition, but there are many traditions that have been phased out as our society evolves. Jumps racing should and must be one of them. Exposing horses to high risk of suffering, injury or death is not a tradition worth keeping. Tradition can never serve as an excuse for animal suffering.

I commend this bill to this council. I note that Racing SA, currently embroiled in legal and internal battles in their industry, have clearly shown the direction that the majority of the industry wishes to take in this state. I refer members to that 1991 Senate committee, which, over 30 years ago, recommended that jumps racing be phased out. For those who do have concerns about the workers in this industry, I ask that those debates be done with the real facts and certainly not be overstated estimations, and caution against necessarily believing that this will have a massive impact on jobs when the evidence does not prove that to be the case.

However, I note that there will be those who will lose work as a result of the banning of jumps racing, should that go forward. Certainly, this Malinauskas government is in a position to work with the industry and with those workers because that task, while important, is actually quite small. I would never encourage people to progress with putting people out of work needlessly when there are much better options for them that do not involve ongoing animal cruelty and the ongoing animal cruelty that is jumps racing. With that, I commend the bill to the council.

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