‘We can’t afford for the horse’s sake to shut the doors’
Australian Trainers' Association president Robbie Griffiths believes animal welfare should be taken into consideration by the state and Federal Governments if they are looking at closing down the racing industry due to the COVID-19 crisis.
"Bottom line there are 4000 or more thoroughbreds who will still need to be fed and watered and looked after every day so you can't shut the gates on stables completely, as if you did it would become an animal welfare issue. This also applies to harness, greyhound and all living animal operations," Griffiths said.
Griffiths said the training centres acted in a similar manner to quarantine centres as human movement was controlled.
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"So you can't lock the gates on stables. The same people who are with the horses now will still be with them then. You can't close it down. Even if they all go spelling people need to feed them."
"Horses don't carry the virus. Cats and dogs still need to be fed as do horses. We can't afford for the horse's sake to shut the doors."
Another trainer, Natalie Young, also said even if race meetings were stopped she hoped that training centres could stay open.
"It's not like people at home who can just take their dogs out for a walk. These horses need care and continual work," Young said.
"We just have to hope that if the worst happens and we can't race that the training centres can stay open. It's not like people at home who can just take their dogs out for a walk. These horses need care and continual work.
Griffiths said racing participants have been extra diligent as they know they've been privileged to continue racing at a time when many industries have shut.
He also believes as participants work in the racing bubble they do not mix with the wider society.
Griffiths said race meetings had a maximum of 150 people on course who were all instructed to stay well clear of each other and were all practising the best hygiene protocols.
"As an industry we're doing a great job. We're the third biggest industry in the country and there's a benefit for all if we continue."
Griffiths also said workers being in the racing bubble also gave them an advantage over other industries as they stayed to themselves.
Danny O'Brien said he hoped racing could go on for the foreseeable future and he pointed out that for those in the industry it was a lifestyle commitment for participants, and as a result, it was the right industry to keep going.
"With the hours our workers have got it's their life. They work for most of the day in the stables and then they go home and come back early in the morning to start again. 90 per cent of them don't go out so they're not mixing with the general population,"
Originally published as 'We can't afford for the horse's sake to shut the doors'