ABC Responds to Racing NSW Statement

Tara Madgwick - Monday October 21

In the wake of ABC's investigation into what happens to racehorses post racing that went to air last Thursday night , Breednet has published a number of responses from various industry bodies on the issue including one from Racing NSW (that can be read here)  and now the ABC have issued their own response to Racing NSW.

"Following the program that aired on the ABC's 7.30 Report last night, Racing NSW Chief Executive, Peter V'landys AM, unequivocally condemned the alleged abhorrent actions of the Meramist Queensland Abattoir. The vision was sickening, and horrendous and Racing NSW calls upon the Queensland Government and its Department of Primary Industries to take the strongest possible action against the alleged perpetrators of such cruelty. Such conduct and any mistreatment of horses is not tolerated in the NSW Thoroughbred Racing Industry.

In responding to the 7.30 Report, Mr V'landys AM said "I will let the facts below speak for themselves:

. Racing NSW is the only State in Australia that has a Rule of Racing that prohibits horses from being sent to a knackery or abattoir if they have been predominantly domiciled in the NSW Thoroughbred Racing Industry. Further, in NSW it is illegal for an abattoir to process a horse for human consumption, unlike other States.


ABC response: Both Racing NSW and Racing ACT have a Rule of Racing prohibiting horses from being sent to a knackery or abattoir. The NSW rule came into effect in October 2017 and the ACT rule in March 2018. The ABC made this clear in its reporting.


In his interview with 7.30, Mr V’Landys also confirmed that the Rule of Racing extends to horses ending up at knackeries outside NSW.


7.30 didn't report horses were being slaughtered at a NSW abattoir for human consumption. It reported horses were being sold at an unapproved livestock auction, in breach of Racing NSW’s Rule of Racing, where kill-buyers were present. Horses were also ending up at NSW knackeries. It clearly reported these NSW knackeries slaughter horses for pet food, not for human consumption.



. That Rule is targeted at eradicating treatment such as that of the Meramist Queensland Abattoir detailed in the 7.30 Report. The effectiveness of that Rule is highlighted by the fact that the 7.30 Report did not identify any horses from NSW that had been sent to that facility, which is where this appalling mistreatment took place.


ABC response: 7.30 did identify horses from NSW ending up at the Meramist Queensland Abattoir. The NSW-linked horses include a group of colts, fillies and mares which were bred, born and domiciled at Hardwicke Stud in Yass, NSW, including a broodmare last raced in the ACT. 7.30 broadcast the vision of the NSW colts, fillies and mares in the pens at the Meramist abattoir and being slaughtered in front of each other.


In phone conversations, Hardwicke Stud’s manager Peter Holloway and property owner Charles deNantueil confirmed Hardwicke horses were born and domiciled in NSW. They also confirmed Hardwicke horses had ended up at a slaughterhouse.


7.30 also named a list of other NSW-born horses slaughtered at Meramist and showed vision of them being killed.


As Mr V’Landys has stated about Racing NSW’s rule: “The objective is that no horse that races or is domiciled in NSW - doesn't have to get to a racecourse, but if it's born, bred, domiciled predominantly in NSW, we'll need to find a home.”


. As to the 14 horses identified by the ABC, Racing NSW responded to the ABC in respect to those horses and advised that at least 12 of those horses had either predominately raced or been domiciled in other States (where Racing NSW does not have jurisdiction) or had been officially retired to be re-homed as a pleasure horse. Accordingly, these horses were outside of Racing NSW's jurisdiction and this illustrates why Racing NSW is supportive of a National Horse Traceability Register.


ABC response: In addition to the significant number of NSW born and domiciled horses identified and slaughtered at Meramist abattoir in Queensland, the ABC also named approximately 19 horses as having been sold at the unapproved Camden Horse Sales livestock auction based in NSW and/or ending up at knackeries based in NSW, not 14.


The Camden Horse Sales are not approved by the regulator due to the presence of kill-buyers and knackeries, and the sale of racehorses there is a breach of Racing NSW rules. Before the programwent to air the ABC informed Mr V’Landys and Racing NSW thoroughbreds were being sold at the Camden Horse Sales.


Camden Horse Sales are open to the public, on Facebook and located an hour’s drive from the Racing NSW headquarters. Racing NSW failed to detect the sale of horses at Camden, confirming to the ABC that "prior to the interview (with 7.30) Racing NSW was not aware that thoroughbreds were being sold at the facility" and that "now that Racing NSW is aware of this venue, we have commenced working with the proprietor to ensure that no thoroughbred is sold to a knackery".


Of the 14 horses named by the ABC as believed to have ended up on the properties of NSW knackeries, 13 were born and/or raced and/or majority domiciled in NSW, including three who were also officially registered as retired to Racing NSW. (This is based on information from the Australian Stud Book, the Racing NSW online database, Racing Australia’s online database, industry form data and lists of races and trials for each horse, details of retired horses obtained under FOI.)


Of the further horses named at the Camden Horse Sales, three were born in NSW and one was majority raced in NSW.


One horse formally retired as an "equestrian/pleasure/companion horse" ended up on a knackery’s property just eight days later.


Regarding the issue of jurisdiction, 7.30 included this 2018 quote from Mr V’Landys to Four Corners: “It might be 12 months later, it might be six months later, but we want to know how you've looked after that horse. We're not going to stop once the horse has been given to somebody else … We're going to expand it to the next level. We want to know if it's having a good retirement.”


During 7.30’s interview this statement was put to Mr V’Landys and we asked how many checks had been done in the 15 months since the public pledge. He responded: “We're doing it to a limited amount at the moment, we're not doing it greatly because we've got confidence in where the horses are going.”


. There have been in excess of 10,000 horses retired in NSW over the past three years and even based on the ABC's unsubstantiated claim that 14 horses were found at a NSW knackery this shows that the Rule has been effective.


ABC response: 7.30 strongly disagrees it is "unsubstantiated" that 14 horses were found at a NSW knackery.


No Rule is foolproof and in the racing industry, as in any other element of the community, there is unfortunately 1% of participants who will break the rules despite 99% doing the completely right thing.


ABC response: 7.30 quoted Mr V’Landys to this effect in the program:

PETER V'LANDYS: No matter how good you are as an administrator, no matter how solid your systems and processes are, you'll never eradicate the 1 per cent no matter how hard you try and that goes for everything in the community not just horse racing. There is always going to be an element that do the wrong thing.


. To show Racing NSW's determination to enforce the Rule, it has over a period of time purchased 10 NSW domiciled horses from a Victorian sale located at Echuca which were at risk of being purchased by a knackery and also made bids on many other horses to make it unviable for the knackery to purchase them.

. Racing NSW has also seized over 120 retired thoroughbred horses on welfare grounds and, over a long period of time, brought these horses back to health and then proceeded to re-home them. Racing NSW has also seized retired thoroughbred horses that were to be exported to Asia to race due to concerns about their ongoing welfare.

. Racing NSW has purchased property throughout NSW including 2,500 acres at Capertee to have sufficient areas to enable its rehoming program.


ABC response: 7.30 would like further information about horses rehomed on the Capertee, Princes Farm and The Grange retirement properties. According to the official Team Thoroughbred website, Capertee property is "currently undergoing an upgrade and will welcome the first horses in late 2019". It says of the Princes Farm property that "there are also plans to establish a racing museum on site as well as a home for retired champions of the turf where the public can visit them". These statements suggest neither Capertee nor Princes Farm are as yet accepting retired horses.


. Racing NSW has a specific equine welfare fund which requires 1% of all prizemoney to be assigned to horse welfare, which was over $2.5 million last year. Racing NSW was the first jurisdiction in Australia to introduce this initiative, doing so in 2016.


ABC response: 7.30 featured all of the reforms and rules introduced by Racing NSW since 2016, including: vision of Mr V’Landys announcing the 1% prize money welfare fund; Racing NSW and Racing ACT’s Rule of Racing banning knackeries, abattoirs and unapproved livestock auction; and Racing NSW’s acquisition of three retirement farms.


. Unfortunately, there will always be people that break the Rules. Racing NSW immediately commenced investigations into the allegations made by the ABC and will prosecute any person that Racing NSW has jurisdiction over that has breached the Rules of Racing and sent a horse to a knackery.

. Racing NSW has not been provided with specific evidence from the ABC in respect to the identity of horses alleged to have been sent to knackeries and will be seeking those details to continue its investigations.

. Despite repeated requests from Racing NSW, the ABC has not returned Racing NSW calls so that Racing NSW could correct some of the incorrect facts that were subsequently aired and to provide any evidence so that Racing NSW can successfully investigate and prosecute breaches of the Rules of Racing.


ABC response: 7.30 conducted an on-camera interview with Mr V’Landys and sent detailed follow-up questions to Racing NSW and Mr V’Landys after the sit-down interview and prior to broadcast. Also before the program aired the ABC sent Racing NSW and Mr V’Landys a list of the names of horses believed to have ended up at a knackery or an unapproved livestock auction so the regulator could make its own inquiries.


This information included evidence that one horse the ABC claimed was destroyed in a knackery was alive and well and that the ABC was aware of such.


ABC response: We assume Racing NSW is referring to 7.30’s efforts to confirm the whereabouts of Tahitian Black, named in the program as possibly having ended up at a NSW knackery. At no stage was the ABC ever told Tahitian Black was "alive and well". The former owners told 7.30 they did not know where the horse had ended up and an owner also confirmed in writing that Tahitian Black had been sent “through the sales”.


. Racing NSW calls upon any person who has evidence in respect to the mistreatment of a thoroughbred to immediately make contact with the Racing NSW Integrity department for investigation."


In a radio interview on 18 October Mr V’Landys and 2GB’s Ray Hadley accused the ABC of suggesting one owner had slaughtered a horse which in fact is still alive.


ABC response: Firstly, at no stage did 7.30 ever suggest that an owner slaughtered a horse. Secondly, 7.30 made clear it isn’t known how horses ended up at livestock auctions and knackeries - highlighting the porous nature of the racing industry’s systems of traceability and accountability.

From the transcript:

1. CARO MELDRUM-HANNA: ‘What happened to all of these horses after they left stud, exactly how they came to end up at Meramist abattoir, is unclear.’

2. CARO MELDRUM-HANNA: ‘How New South Wales-bred and domiciled horses ended up at an abattoir in Queensland requires answers because, under New South Wales rules, it's strictly prohibited.’

3. CARO MELDRUM-HANNA: ‘And it's not known exactly how so many racehorses have ended up here but it's a brazen contravention of racing rules, if industry participants have anything to do with the trade.’

4. CARO MELDRUM-HANNA: I rang David Pfieffer to try and find out whether he knows what has happened to Tahitian Black.

CARO MELDRUM-HANNA: Where did you retire Tahitian Black to?

DAVID PFIEFFER: I need to think now.

CARO MELDRUM-HANNA: We believe that Tahitian Black has actually ended up at a knackery.

DAVID PFIEFFER: Oh, Jesus. How can you confirm that?

CARO MELDRUM-HANNA: Well, I want to know if you had anything to do with it, if that has happened.

DAVID PFIEFFER: No, no, not at all, not at all. Once I give them away, find them a home, they're sort of out of my hands.

CARO MELDRUM-HANNA: I also asked David Pfieffer what happened to another of his horses identified in our investigation - Next of Kin.

And did you register Next of Kin as formally retired with Racing New South Wales.

DAVID PFIEFFER: I think we have to these days. Give me a second, I'm just trying to log into my Racing Australia. No, he actually hasn't been listed as retired. Oh.


DAVID PFIEFFER: It must have been an oversight in the stables. It's a computer oversight, you can't hold me to that.

This statement made it clear the horses were no longer in Mr Pfieffer’s possession. We sought his reaction to the possibility they had ended up at a livestock auction not approved by the regulator where kill-buyers/knackeries were acquiring horses. 7.30 also made it clear how much David Pfiefferloved Tahitian Black, including his Facebook posts and website tribute to the horse upon its retirement in 2016.

5. CARO MELDRUM-HANNA: ‘It's not known how so many registered New South Wales racehorses have ended up at Burns and Luddenham who ultimately sealed their fates but I tried to speak with both knackeries.’

The ABC contacted both NSW knackeries to ask them for information about the identity and numbers of the horses ending up at both facilities. Both knackeries refused to answer the ABC’s questions.

 The ABC stands by its reporting.

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