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Presentation: Peter Cormick Nov 12th 2019

PUBLIC FORUM - 12 November 2019


Presentation by Peter Cormick

Good morning councillors.

I am here to support the Notice of Motion to be put forward by Councillor Brown, in which he seeks information from Racing NSW on the protocols, the standards and the monitoring and enforcement of those standards, in relation to the welfare of racehorses, whether currently racing or, most importantly, when retired from racing.

It is my commitment to animal welfare that has brought me here, in spite of my view of the now-diminished state of this forum. And I thank Councillor Brown for bringing this matter to the attention of the chamber and thereby to the wider public.

Given the importance of open discussion in a democratic society, it’s a shame that commendation of Councillor Brown for his action in this instance, by a community member, is not able to be shared live with those of our community who are unable to be here in the chamber. But he has only himself, and others of you, to blame for this situation.

As the background to the motion explains, it has arisen from the exposure of gross cruelty inflicted upon defenceless, beautiful, magnificent horses, transported en mass as nothing more than objects to be processed.

Those of us who have, or have had, the privilege of spending time with horses, especially riding and grooming them, and thereby being able to develop a close relationship, will have found the footage shown on the ABC 7.30 program to have been particularly sickening. To see the terror in the horses’ faces as they were about to be brutalised, was extremely distressing. Those responsible, apparently of our species, should now be serving time.

And yet this brutality, by those who have no awareness or regard whatever for the feelings and welfare of animals, happens routinely – and not just to horses. If you have the stomach for it, I suggest you watch the documentary Dominion. Animal welfare is a matter that goes well beyond the welfare of horses.

Given that we live in a region that is blessed with many beautiful horses and some world class horsemen and horsewomen, I have every confidence that Councillor Brown’s motion will receive unanimous support. How could anyone object to it? But as admirable as it is, it does not go quite far enough.

Expecting any organisation to examine itself, identify its own failings, to put in place protocols, standards and methods of enforcement to address those failings and ensure maintenance of the standards, and then in the interests of transparency, making all of this known to the public, is really expecting too much; so too with Racing NSW. It is not in that organisation’s interests to paint anything other than a rosy picture.

But for the undercover investigation, we would have known nothing of the brutality inflicted upon the horses; so too with the live export trade and the barbaric treatment of Australian livestock when it reaches foreign shores. But for undercover investigators and whistleblowers, none of the abuses we have become aware of through the media would have ever seen the light of day. Government does nothing on this score. We rely entirely on those whom our Federal and State Government dare to criminalise for exposing the crimes committed by others. How twisted is that?!

Self regulation, across all industries, has been shown time and time again to be an abject failure. Self interest, incapacity for acknowledging failures, and secrecy, prevail. Thus, there is a clear need for informed, independent oversight of all industries, including those which are concerned with the treatment of animals, if there is to be any chance of achieving genuine improvement.

And so, a concern I have with Councillor Brown’s motion, admirable as it is, is that we can be sure that Racing NSW will provide us with answers which will almost certainly please the reader, to some extent at least, but it will be missing an informed, independent view of its protocols and standards. I therefore ask Councillor Brown if he would consider making a slight amendment to part 3 of his motion, along the following lines (as indicated by italicisation).

3. How are standards monitored and enforced and to what extent are your standards and practices assessed by an independent expert body and reported upon publicly, and what involvement does the RSPCA have in setting such standards?

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