Last updated 23 July 2020

When horses exit the racing industry permanently it is described as ‘wastage’. The main reason horses exit the racing industry is due to poor performance, with less common factors including injury, illness or behavioural issues76.

The racing careers of horses only last between 2-3 years, however their natural life span is 25-30 years77. On average there are 13,000 foals bred into the racing industry each year, without a net increase in the number of horses racing78. Figures from the RSPCA indicate that 2000 foals won’t even be registered to race, and 2,500 will be used for breeding, leaving 8,500 horses leaving the racing industry annually79.


Outlined within the Model Code of Practice for the Welfare of Animals: Livestock at Slaughtering Establishments, are the methods by which horses can be killed. These methods include shooting horses in the head and the use of captive-bolt pistols.

Standard slaughter methods for horses. Source: Primary Industries Standing Committee.


In 2019, the ABC’s 7.30 Report exposed the dark underbelly of the racing industry. Professor Paul McGreevy, an award winning veterinarian and academic who has been studying thoroughbred racehorses for 25 years, revealed that the racing industry’s figure of 1% of ex-race horses ending up in abattoirs didn’t add up. McGreevy revealed that of the 8,500 horses exiting the racing industry each year, up to 4000 are unaccounted for and essentially ‘disappear’80.

Investigation revealed that thousands of thoroughbred racehorses were being slaughtered in Australia. 300 race horses whose prize money equated to $5 million collectively were slaughtered at Meramist abattoir in Queensland in just 22 days81.

A study conducted in 2008 examined 340 horses that entered two slaughterhouses in Australia that slaughter equine. 40% of the horses that entered the abattoir were identified to be thoroughbred racehorses and 13% were identified as standardbred82. Horse’s brands were studied to determine their age and origin; it was found that 60% were younger than 8 years 83.


Horse slaughtered at Meramist abattoir. Source: ABC


For horses exiting the racing industry that don’t end up in a knackery, their future still faces uncertainty. There have been several cases of ex-racehorses being found emaciated and neglected on Australian properties. Given ex-racehorses can often be unsuitable to be ridden, they require homes that will offer them care despite them not being ‘used’ for anything.

A neglected thoroughbred horse. Source: Animal Liberation Queensland

Dead ex-racehorses in a barren paddock. Source: Animal Liberation Queensland



How is this legal?

There are no compulsory, enforceable standards for the welfare or protection of racehorses84. This means their legal protection is limited at best.

Relevant animal protection laws in each state have specific exemptions for animals used for consumption. Horses are commonly used in pet food in Australia, and some facilities even kill horses for human consumption. These exemptions mean that it is perfectly legal for horses to be slaughtered in Australian knackeries, and that horses are not afforded the same animal protection laws we afford to dogs and cats.

Exemption for animals slaughtered in accordance with the Meat Industry Act 1993 under section 6 of the Victorian POCTAA.


What can I do about this?

We are calling on state governments to remove exemptions for farmed animals under their relevant animal protection acts. If you believe all animals should be afforded the same protection as the dogs and cats we share our homes with, please consider signing our petition here.