The WBA is campaigning for a total ban on the use of the whip for ‘encouragement’ (when the horse is trying) and for ‘punishment for non-performance’ in racing and across all equestrian sports. Aligning with many other animal welfare advocates calling for a ban on the use of the whip in racing.
The World Bitless Association (WBA) has created the #DropTheWhip campaign in support of the horse, and in support of the stance taken in 2020 by Tasmanian Harness Racing Driver Gavin Kelly, who refused to carry a whip or use it, in a Harness race. On the grounds said Kelly that “Whips are Cruel, that they create pain and suffering”. Kelly challenged the rules of the Tasmanian Racing Appeal Board that mandate he carries a whip in his hand, he won, he may carry a whip, clipped into the dust sheet of the Sulky, but does not have to hold the whip during racing.
The International Federation of Horse Racing Authorities (IFHA) has developed minimum standard guidelines for the use of the whip, however, Regulation of whip use, design, number of strikes and the penalties for abuse in horseracing internationally, remains widely varied.
Many in the sport of racing believe like the Norwegian racing stewards of Øvervoll, Norway that ‘the whip should be taken away completely.’
Racing Authorities around the world have recognise that the whip is a controversial issue. The British HorseRacing Authority’s recent Horse Welfare Board Strategy 2021, recognises the disparity between the industry, public perception and feelings about horse welfare and the use of the whip in racing, and states; ‘Views on the whip are rarely black and white, with few people being stridently pro or anti. There are many grey areas and nuances. Someone may have no personal objection to the whip but may still oppose its continued use because of concerns about public perceptions. Someone else may personally dislike the whip, but find themselves speaking up in support of it, for fear that relinquishing the whip would require the sport to bow to public pressure in other areas.’
Hans Petter Eriksen, former director of the Norwegian Jockey Club, told a gathering of leading industry figures from around the world in May 2019. “The best horse can win the race, even without the whip.” Eriksen also said that in 30 years, “There have been no accidents resulting from jockeys not being able to carry a whip.”
The World Bitless Association propose as a starting point that a universal racing body is created to unify the various rules of racing in the individual countries so that the rules and penalties, apply consistently, with clarity and fairness for Jockeys and their horses, throughout the world.
WBA propose that, if, the whip is to be carried for ‘safety’ then any use of the whip should be actioned by a steward’s enquiry with the following penalties; that the use of whip is only acceptable in exceptional circumstances of safety, to prevent injury; and if the horse is unfairly abused, the jockey will face sanctions of fine, suspension or ban.
World Bitless Association believes the evidence is conclusive, that public opinion supports the science. Whipping a horse has no valuable contribution to racing.
Recent research identifies the need for Industry and Animal Advocates to urgently work together to improve welfare in horse sport if it is to survive and thrive. See here: Naturalness and the Legitimacy of Thoroughbred Racing: A Photo-Elicitation Study with Industry and Animal Advocacy Informants.
A Facebook group Drop The Whip! has been set up by the World Bitless Association for equestrians, animal advocates etc., to register their support and become active in campaigning for change to the rules. The detailed Drop The Whip Campaign statement found on the WBA website here.