A harness racing driver is appealing a steward's decision to fine him $1000 for not carrying a whip, sparking a debate about animal welfare in the industry.
Gavin Kelly was issued a verbal direction by stewards at Mowbray on December 19 last year, when they found he didn't have a whip during a race. Then, 10 days later, at Devonport, Mr Kelly was issued a fine for the same reason.
"I've seen what horses can do without being whipped and I don't see that inflicting pain to generate a result is necessary if you train them to the best of their ability," Mr Kelly told ABC Radio yesterday.
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"It's absolutely cruel. It inflicts pain and suffering."
Mr Kelly said he was told to carry a whip "on safety grounds", but that he didn't have to use it.
He has appealed his fine to the Tasmanian Racing Appeal Board.
"Whether I'm right or wrong under the laws, I feel I'm most certainly right from a social conscience perspective," he said.
According to Mr Kelly, he won't race again if he's made to carry a whip.
Racing Minister Jane Howlett said she couldn't comment on Mr Kelly's appeal but that she had been briefed on the matter.
"Harness Racing Australia originally announced [in] December 2016 that it would ban the use of whips in harness racing and training from the 1st of September, 2017," she told State Parliament on Tuesday.
"The HRA has reaffirmed its commitment to the removal of the use of whips in harness racing.
"The original implementation date was deemed not to be achievable.
"On the 12th of June, 2020, Harness Racing Australia approved further restrictions to the use of the whip and the type of whip which can be used."
Ms Howlett said Tasracing and the Office of Racing Integrity would keep working with national governing bodies to "work out better implementation for whips".
But Greens leader Cassy O'Connor said the minister should be intervening in Mr Kelly's case, given he made "the ethical choice not to whip his horses on the track and is being punished for it".
"The minister did not explain why stewards would target Mr Kelly in this way when it is not a rule of racing that a whip be carried," Ms O'Connor said.
"Whipping leads to exhausted horses being pushed past breaking point. It puts them at even greater risk of serious injury and death. It's no wonder there's growing public concern about this outdated, unnecessary, and cruel practice.
"If the Gutwein government actually cared about the welfare of animals, they would ban the use of whips - as the Greens have called for."
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