Horse News

EXCLUSIVE: How the RSPCA sends thoroughbreds from NSW to slaughterhouses to be turned into pet food – after slamming the racing industry for destroying horses


  • ABC’s 7.30 program exposed widespread slaughter of racehorses last month 
  • Hundreds of retired thoroughbreds have been sent to abattoirs and knackeries
  • RSPCA Australia said the animal welfare body was horrified but not surprised
  • RSPCA NSW has now said it sometimes sends horses and cattle off to abattoirs 
  • Warning: Graphic content

Footage aired on the ABC in October shows healthy thoroughbreds being mistreated and slaughtered for consumption in an investigation which has shaken the racing industry

The RSPCA has admitted for the first time it sends broken-down racehorses to slaughterhouses in New South Wales where their carcasses are processed into pet food.

The animal welfare body has been one of the strongest critics of thoroughbreds being sent to abattoirs and knackeries once they are retired from the racing industry.

RSPCA New South Wales told Daily Mail Australia it sometimes sent stock including thoroughbreds for commercial slaughter if no other option was available.

‘On occasion the only mechanism for disposing of very diseased, unwell or aged stock animals is via abattoir or knackery facilities,’ a spokeswoman said.

‘RSPCA NSW has in the past sent stock to abattoir, and continues to do so in a variety of circumstances.’

One of the knackeries RSPCA NSW has used in the past is Burns Pet Foods in Sydney which featured in a recent ABC expose alleging thoroughbreds were being slaughtered on an industrial scale.

Daily Mail Australia has been provided with an invoice from November 2012 which shows RSPCA NSW paying $300 for the transport of two horses including the delivery of one ‘TB mare’ to ‘Burns PF’.

‘TB’ means thoroughbred. ‘Burns PF’ is Burns Pet Foods at Riverstone.

Burns Pet Foods, which processes horse meat for consumption by animals, has recently been prosecuted by the RSPCA for cruelty to cattle and sheep.

The company pleaded guilty in September to four counts of aggravated animal cruelty and one of failing to provide veterinary treatment.

It is not suggested the horse sent by RSPCA NSW to the knackery in 2012 was in any way mistreated.

An RSPCA NSW spokesman said it was possible the animal had been in a condition which made it cruel to keep it alive and it was euthanised before being delivered to Burns Pet Foods.

‘RSPCA NSW notes further that the obligation to rehome thoroughbreds by industry participants has only existed since 2017,’ the spokesman said.

In October the ABC’s 7.30 program screened footage of thoroughbreds being mistreated in an abattoir in south-east Queensland and alleged hundreds of Australian racehorses were being sent to slaughter every year.

Hidden cameras showed that in just 22 days, more than 300 racehorses – winners of a combined $5million in prize money – were killed in the abattoir.

The report cited Racing Australia data which claimed fewer than 1 per cent of ex-racehorses were sent to abattoirs or knackeries, which would be 34 each year.

The ABC aired allegations animals sent to the Queensland abattoir were beaten, repeatedly stunned with electric prods and kicked while they were dying.

An RSPCA Queensland spokesman said that state body had never sent stock including thoroughbreds to abattoirs or knackeries under any circumstances.

The day after the program screened RSPCA Australia’s acting CEO Bidda Jones said the oversupply and ‘wastage’ of horses in the racing industry had led to animals being slaughtered.

‘Like all Australians who saw last night’s program, we were shocked and horrified – but sadly, not surprised – at the fate of of Australian thoroughbred and harness racing horses sent for slaughter, and the industry’s alarming lack of acknowledgement or control over this,’ Dr Jones said.

‘Sadly, Australian racing authorities have become experts in ignoring the obvious, because it doesn’t fit with their desired image.’

It took RSPCA NSW almost a month to respond to questions about whether it ever sent animals – particularly thoroughbreds – to knackeries.

A statement was eventually provided with input from the RSPCA inspectorate, which investigates allegations of animal mistreatment, and the body’s own legal counsel.

A spokeswoman stressed she could speak on behalf of only RSPCA NSW and not the other state branches of the organisation which all operate independently.

While confirming it sometimes disposed of stock through abattoirs and knackeries RSPCA NSW did not say how often it did so.

Asked to clarify if ‘stock’ included thoroughbreds, RSPCA NSW cited the Department of Primary Industries’ use of the word.

‘RSPCA NSW uses the DPI definition of stock – so that includes horses of all descriptions, including thoroughbreds,’ it said.

The spokeswoman said RSPCA NSW received ‘many thousands’ of stock animals each year ‘under many different circumstances’.

It took in surrendered, stray and impounded animals, those seized by inspectors for prosecution of owners and for the administration of seize and sell provisions of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act.

‘The decision as to how to maintain the animals, in what circumstances, for how long, and whether they should be euthanised is determined by the purpose for which they come into our custody, and a variety of other factors,’ the RSPCA NSW spokeswoman said.

‘That includes determining whether the animal is in a condition which requires immediate euthanasia, in which case the stock will be humanely euthanised, and then either buried or transported to appropriate facilities for disposal.’

RSPCA NSW makes those decisions based on the advice of experienced vets including experts from Sydney University’s Veterinary Teaching Hospital…(CONTINUED)

1 reply »

  1. “On occasion the only mechanism for disposing of very diseased, unwell or aged stock animals is via abattoir or knackery facilities,’ a spokeswoman said.”

    First, why are sick animals being fed to other healthy animals? Have we not learned anything in recent decades about the law of unintended consequences? Not addressed at all is the certainty (or uncertainty) that plenty of these dead horses are likely full of drugs used to try to help them in their last days, or if from the track, perhaps as daily support.

    And it’s not clear if “euthanasia” in Australia is defined as by chemical injection or by bullet. If chemicals are used, no carcasses should ever enter the food chain but should be buried, again “the law of unintended consequences.”

    Here’s just one example:

    “Throughout India, vulture populations have plummeted to less than 1 percent of what they were a few decades ago, leading to an epidemic of uneaten cattle carcasses and spawning an increase in the number of rats, feral dogs and human rabies cases from dog bites. …

    The birds declined largely because ranchers started giving their cattle an anti-inflammatory drug called diclofenac that the birds ingested when they ate the dead cattle, said paper author and Cambridge researcher Andrew Balmford.”

    Liked by 1 person

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