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It turns out that whipping DOES hurt horses. So what now, racing industry?

This entire industry has long relied on a premise that’s now been proved a lie. So does this spell the end of horse racing as we know it?

The horse racing industry has long relied on the premise that whips don’t hurt horses — but a new study has revealed that horses are thin-skinned creatures who feel pain when whipped.

The science of horses’ pain levels as a result of whipping has never been tested before and, according to to the Herald Sun, the new results are likely to put pressure on the racing industry to ban the use of the whip.

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The horse racing industry has long relied on the premise that whips don’t hurt horses — but a new study has revealed that horses are thin-skinned creatures who feel pain when whipped. Image via Getty.

In last night’s episode of ABC program Catalyst, Australian Racing Board chief executive Peter McGauran said that board would “further restrict or abolish’’ the whip if the science proved horses felt pain.

But it looks like that’s already happened. Forensic veterinary pathologist Dr Lydia Tong told the ABC that preliminary tests concluded that whipping is “likely to be painful’’.

That view contradicts the view of many, jockeys who claim padded whips don’t hurt horses.

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Dr Tong said her research proved the horse’s skin was thicker than ours, but only by less than a millimetre. She added that the epidermis – the top layer of skin where the whip would hit – is actually thinner.

“In some ways you could therefore argue when it comes to pain the horse’s skin is thinner,” she said.

Image via Getty.
Dr Tong said her research proved the horse’s skin was thicker than ours, but only by less than a millimetre. Image via Getty.
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The horse racing industry, both in Australia and internationally, has regulations in place regarding whip use. There are restrictions on the number of times a whip can be used during a race, although all all bets are off (figuratively) during the last 100m – precisely the time when horses are physically exhausted and at their most vulnerable.

Related content: The Melbourne Cup is over. Two horses are dead.

Not any old whip can be used in a horse race either; The racing industry ensures that every whip is padded, with the idea being that the whip should “encourage” a horse without imposing pain.

In addition to this, horses should not be struck on the flank – although a 2011 study by the University of Sydney studied more than 100 strikes using frame-by-frame analysis, and discovered that more than 75% were flank strikes.

Image via Getty.
The horse racing industry, both in Australia and internationally, has jurisdictions in place to regulate whip use. Image via Getty.

The RSPCA has long been campaigning for an end to the use of whips as performance aids – claiming whip padding is ineffective in safeguarding race horses from pain. The organisation also claims that whip use rules are not being enforced effectively by the industry.

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The Coalition for the Protection of Racehorses has also been campaigning to ban the use of whips in horse racing.

“Whipping the horses over and over again inflicts physical and psychological pain and increases the likelihood of injury,” the group claims on its website.

“Somehow, the racing industry has escaped accountability for this blatant act of abuse. Had the same routine treatment been inflicted on any other animal, the perpetrator would almost certainly be prosecuted.”

So, if horses aren’t as thick skinned as we thought they were, and no one is enforcing the rules: is it time to ditch the whip?

Do whips need to be banned from horse racing?

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