An Equine Welfare Advisory Council has been established by the racing authority in Victoria, Australia, under its $A25 million commitment to accelerate and expand its Equine Welfare Strategic Plan.
Racing Victoria says the new council will serve as a source of expert advice and opinion to help it effectively implement its three-year industry-wide welfare plan, launched in mid-2019.
There will be a particular focus on the post-racing wellbeing of Thoroughbreds.
The foundation council members include four individuals independent of Racing Victoria.
The board met for the first time a week ago.
The independent members are Dr Andrew McLean, a co-director of Equitation Science International; RSPCA Victoria chief executive Dr Liz Walker; Murdoch University animal welfare officer Dr Margot Seneque; and Laboratory Animal Care and Management consultant Dr Malcolm France.
The three Racing Victoria members of the council are Equine Welfare general manager and chairwoman Jennifer Hughes; Veterinary Services general manager Dr Grace Forbes; and Integrity Services executive general manager Jamie Stier.
The council will ultimately have scope for eight members, with the opportunity for one additional independent member to join in the near future. This will be on the direction of the Racing Victoria board.
Those selected are tasked with providing the relevant expertise and experience required to not only shape the delivery of Racing Victoria’s equine welfare action plan but generally advance equine welfare across the Victorian Thoroughbred racing industry.
The council will also be asked to identify opportunities to enhance the sport’s commitment to safeguard the wellbeing of every racehorse before, during and after racing.
Hughes says the council is one of the adopted proposals in the Racing Victoria three-year industry-wide Equine Welfare Strategic Plan.
“This is an important opportunity to bring together an experienced and varying group of individuals to help enhance the delivery of our equine welfare action plan.
“The purpose of the advisory council is to utilise each independent member’s knowledge and expertise to ensure we deliver our equine welfare projects and programs in the best possible manner to achieve the right outcomes.”
Forbes says: “Our attitude is we can always get better at equine welfare, and the introduction of the Advisory Council demonstrates a great opportunity to obtain further support and contributions from a variety of respected industry leaders that are independent of Racing Victoria.
“This initiative is about identifying matters for consideration through different lenses that will ultimately allow us to best deliver the priority projects and programs we have set out in the equine welfare action plan.
“From research projects to statewide rehoming programs, there are many important objectives within our Equine Welfare Strategic Plan and we want to ensure that they are realised to best effect.”
McLean says he is happy to be a part of the council. “In my view it has been formed in the proper way with the necessary range of skills and expertise in animal welfare, sport and racing.
“Racing Victoria sets a very significant benchmark with a strategic plan that will not only benefit welfare throughout the racehorse’s life but will also increase the potential for a worthwhile life after the horse’s racing career.”
Dr Malcolm France describes the independence of most of the council’s membership as one of its real strengths. “It shows that the initiative values transparency and new perspectives.”