Australia

Australian racehorse slaughter allegations prompt investigation

A racehorse in a pen at an Queensland abattoir accused of slaughtering horses. Image copyright ABC 7.30
Image caption The investigation was prompted by images broadcast on Australian television

Australian authorities have launched an investigation into suspected animal cruelty after a TV report revealed the alleged mass slaughter of racehorses.

Footage of horses allegedly being mistreated at an abattoir in Queensland caused widespread anger when it was aired on broadcaster ABC on Thursday.

The slaughter of racehorses is legal in Australia, but industry rules in some states require horses to be "rehomed".

Racing is a popular and lucrative industry in the nation.

State government officials described the allegations - aired ahead of the main spring racing season - as "abhorrent".

On Friday, Queensland authorities sent inspectors to one of the abattoirs named by ABC's 7.30 programme. The report alleged that 300 racehorses were killed there over a 22-day period.

It also broadcast covertly taken footage which appeared to show horses being beaten and mistreated in other ways.

Some of the meat from slaughtered animals was exported for human consumption in countries in Asia and Europe, the report said.

New South Wales Racing Minister Kevin Anderson said the footage had made those involved in the sport "sick to their stomach".

Racing Australia, the national industry body, added it should lead to prosecutions.

But the national body said it did not have the ability to track racehorses after they retired from competition. It reiterated calls for a national register to be established.

About 8,500 horses nationally are retired from the track each year. Racing Australia said it believed less than 1% of such animals ended up in an abattoir.

The industry has long drawn criticism from animal welfare groups such as the RSPCA, which on Friday said officials had "lost control" over how horses were managed.

"Racing authorities repeatedly claim that animal welfare is 'paramount', yet they don't want to admit that racehorses are being slaughtered," it said in a statement.

Tens of thousands of people are expected to attend Australia's spring racing events. The nation's most prestigious race, the Melbourne Cup, will be held on 5 November.

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