BHA failing in the equine welfare debate
It’s not long since these scribblings called for a robust response to those who campaign against racing using equine fatalities on racecourses to further their argument.
The tenet of the proposed response was to be realistic insomuch that all creatures die, that on a racecourse veterinarian attendance is immediate, some fatalities can just as easily happen elsewhere and racing plays a major part in advancing equine veterinarian practise.
It did not include mention of how well racehorses are looked after nor did it point out that every step is taken to try and make racecourses as safe as possible for horse and rider. Nobody would expect anything less.
The high profile of the Cheltenham Festival and the memory that seven horses were killed there last year once again galvanised those who want racing banned.
But whilst they were galvanised, the BHA still acted like a rabbit caught in the headlights.
It wasn’t until Sunday that BHA chief executive Nick Rust gave an extensive response to events at Cheltenham where, this year, three horses died. He was right, on Racing TV’s Luck on Sunday, to use hunting, coursing, circuses, sea life and dolphins as examples where public opinion on animal welfare resulted in the end of such activities.
“This isn’t just about the so-called antis and the sport needs to wake up a little bit to this”
Trouble is that some of the antis lead the debate, pulling public opinion along with them, and they don’t seem to care about the facts in order to advance their cause. And they don’t seem to be readily challenged other than by individuals whose sometime anger and resentment can be counter-productive
When Sir Erec was put down at the Festival after sustaining an injury, there were suggestions, refuted, that a stone bruise and the need for the horse to be re-shod played a part in the accident.
Where there was some decisive action, the ten-day ban given to amateur rider Declan Levy for not pulling-up his horse in the National Hunt Chase which went on to finish third, it has been widely criticised. Not surprisingly, the ban is being appealed.
The outcome is a growing lack of confidence in the BHA, an organisation which is financed by the sport’s main stakeholders. If the BHA is being advised on responding to the negative publicity and getting over its message, it doesn’t appear to be getting value for money.
It can point to its The Horse Comes First campaign but this largely seemed to comprise advertisements in race cards, somewhat preaching to the converted, and based on a theme which many accept but without being persuasive in tackling the challengers.
Whereas these scribblings fully supported the BHA’s action in relation to equine flu – swift, well communicated and effective – the same cannot be said about its handling of the equine welfare debate.
The number of stakeholders critical of the BHA’s approach is growing and, whilst I’ll maintain that a robust approach is the best way forward, anyone dismissive of criticism of the sport is being unhelpful. Damage is being done by the lack of a single voice which should be measured in its tone and confident in its presentation.
Meanwhile the BHA looks to be on borrowed time.
I wont mention at which of Sandown Park’s bars this happened to spare the blushes.
A customer asked for a pint of Guinness and a red wine. Encouragingly, the member of the bar team started to pour the black stuff first and, when the glass was three-quarters full, left it to stand and started to pour the glass of red wine.
The bar person was able to locate the bottle of vin rouge pretty quickly, as earlier someone else had wanted a glass of red and the bar person spent quite some time going through the bottles in the fridge before a colleague explained that red wine is not stored chilled.
The wine was poured into the measure but the bottle was emptied before the measure was full, so the wine was tipped into the glass and a new bottle was sought.
On return, the bar person stood and looked for a few moments at the partly filled glass, the empty measure and the full bottle of wine. Rather than put the wine back into the measure, a guess was made of how much more wine should be poured into the glass. The bar person then went back to the Guinness and duly topped it up with lager.