AAEP policy and welfare thoughts
"We all agree that racing needs to be sensitive to all the issues of animal welfare," says Palmer. "The AAEP policy is that
we support the recommendations by the Jockey Club and the ARCI. From a purely philosophical standpoint, one can validly argue
that if you take the whips from all the jockeys, some horse is still going to win the race. I think it's fair to say that.
However, there are other safety issues involved.
"If jockeys abuse whip use and rules, they should then be punished," Palmer continues. "But given everything we know about
the whip construction and the way they are properly used, it is not a health issue for the horse, in my opinion. They are
not harmed by it. If, on the other hand, its use is abused, then punishment such as fines and suspension are warranted."
Public perception is part of the debate. "I don't think mildly aggressive whip use in most instances hurts the horse, but
it probably hurts horseracing because it seems to be perceived as disrespectful or as painful to the horses by a fair percentage
of those who attend or watch horse racing—those who the industry is trying to attract," McDonnell says. "When watching races,
I often hear spectators, say 'Why do they have to hit him—he was going to win the race anyway?' I think it is unnecessary.
Good riders should be able to give encouragement to the horse and make it less unappealing to the viewing public."
"It's a complex issue, no question," Palmer admits. "It has many facets to it. There is no question that you cannot ignore
public perception in racing. We've learned that lesson in spades over the years. However, public perception should be based
on reality and not on overdramatized, inaccurate or unrealistic claims regarding whip use in racing. Public education is important
and should appropriately tell a factual and realistic story."
Ed Kane, PhD, is a researcher and consultant in animal nutrition. He is an author and editor on nutrition, physiology and
veterinary medicine with a background in horses, pets and livestock. Kane is based in Seattle.
1. Evans D, McGreevy P. An investigation of racing performance and whip use by jockeys in Thoroughbred races. PLoS One 2011;6(1): e15622.