Whips to be banned in Australian harness racing Sat, 10 Dec 2016

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The use of whips in Australian harness racing will be banned from next year.

In a move that is a world-first, Harness Racing Australia (HRA) will outlaw whips in racing and training from September 1. An HRA statement said the move would boost the industry's image while enhancing its viability as a racing code.

"The decision sets the pace in animal welfare and for the long-term support and sustainability of the industry," the statement said. "It aligns with high expectations of the community, fans, and industry participants in harness racing."

HRA chairman Geoff Want said the decision to ban the whip had been six years in the making. Restrictions on the use of the whip have been in place in a response to animal welfare concerns.

The HRA announcement has been welcomed by the RSCPA. Chief executive Heather Neil said the ban would protect standardbred racehorses from unnecessary and unjustified pain and distress.

"As Harness Racing Australia has recognised, racing should celebrate quality horsemanship, breeding and training - whips shouldn't come into it," she said. "This is a powerful sign that the harness racing industry is focused on horse welfare and is acknowledging the concerns of the wider community.

"We commend the industry leadership in removing the use of whips, not only on the track, but also in training."