WARRNAMBOOL Racing Club chairman Des Roberts has joined the chorus of protests about a large billboard featuring the confronting image of a dead horse that is being used as part of a campaign against horse racing.
The 22-metre-wide billboard on the CityLink tollway near the Bolte Bridge in Melbourne was installed on the weekend and was paid for by the Coalition for the Protection of Racehorses (CPR).
CPR has staged annual protests against jumps races at Warrnambool’s May Racing Carnival that has many feature jumps races, including the Grand Annual Steeplechase.
Mr Roberts said CPR was using shock tactics that ignored horse safety in jumps racing was at “an all-time best” and used world-best practices.
He said CPR would not stop at banning jumps racing and all horse racing would be in danger if CPR had its way.
The Australian Racing Board and Racing Victoria strongly criticised the billboard, calling it “highly inappropriate and distasteful” to the Victorian thoroughbred racing industry and “the wider community who are travelling past this image”.
Racing Victoria chief executive Bernard Saundry told Fairfax Media the level of care given to racehorses was “unmatched by any other domesticated animal”, and that “$300 million was spent annually in Victoria by owners on the care and welfare” of the animals.
“The inference that horse racing kills its equine athletes is misleading and very disappointing for the many people within our industry who have spent the best part of a lifetime caring for horses,” Mr Saundry said.
The Australian Racing Board’s chief executive officer Peter McGauran said the billboard was a “terrible distortion of the reality of thoroughbred racing”.
The coalition’s communications manager Ward Young said its use of the image of the dead horse was “definitely fair, because that particular horse was killed by the racing industry, not by us”.
“While we would agree that it is distressing and offensive, people need to remember this is the racing industry who caused these problems, and ultimately have the ability to fix things.”
CPR has campaigned against horse racing not only because of the deaths of horses in races but also the number of thoroughbred horses killed because they are not competitive in races.
Mr Young said his group was campaigning for all racehorses to be safely re-homed, “so that they’re not shot and killed for dog meat, as is currently the case”.