Racing horses registered to run in the UK will have to be deregistered from the food chain from January, BBC Sport can reveal.
A change in the rules of the British Riding Administration (BHA) will mean that horses cannot be sent to slaughterhouses in exchange for money for food slaughter.
Transporting horses to a slaughterhouse to be sold for consumption “is not an approach we should tolerate in our sport” and should not be “classified as euthanasia,” said BHA Director of Hoof Health and Welfare James Given.
In July, a BBC Panorama investigation revealed that 4,000 former racehorses – some once owned and trained by prominent figures in the industry, and most trained in Ireland – had been slaughtered in the UK and Ireland since early 2019.
Indicative data held by the racing authorities indicate that 12% of them would be killed in the UK.
Date explained that one of the main reasons for changing the rule is that all racehorses can be treated with the most appropriate medication if they are injured on the racetrack.
Currently, every horse that is not deregistered from the human food chain cannot be given certain medications, such as the painkiller phenylbutazone or butea.
From next year, horses will still be able to be sent to the slaughterhouse as a method of humane descent, but will no longer be able to be sold for food.
The rule was proposed by the BHA veterinary committee in January, but required the approval of the committee and the organization’s rules committee, which was adopted last month.
It applies to all domestic training runners in the UK, and will mean that it is not accepted if it is not announced – via the Weatherbys app and the horse’s passport – that the horse is not intended for human consumption.
The intention is to include international runners, and the BHA is currently cooperating with other jurisdictions.
However, a leading social welfare charity warned that this was not a “panacea of welfare that could emerge” and warned that “underground trade” could still allow people to circumvent the rules.
Date told BBC Sport: “There are a number of welfare issues [behind this]. I think it’s a big development.
“This follows from the work done last year by the Horse Protection Committee developing guidelines on euthanasia and a decision-making tree to help people in very difficult times.
“All four stakeholders who were the cornerstone were consulted and all unanimously agreed that it was the right and right thing to do, and of course, the Panorama program further emphasized its necessity.”
He said in a statement: “Transporting horses to a slaughterhouse to be sold for consumption, in my opinion, should not be classified as euthanasia and is not an approach we should tolerate in our sport, which is why the rule prevents this practice is a positive step.
“I am convinced that most British coaches and owners agree with me on this and already respect this principle.”
A secret video in the Panorama investigation caused concern over the way horses were killed in one of Britain’s largest slaughterhouses.
Other issues highlighted are horses that have been transported hundreds of miles from Ireland, and some carry life-threatening injuries.
The slaughterhouse, Drury and Sons, told Panorama that they “take great care to maintain high welfare and do not accept any form of animal abuse.”
World Horse Welfare Executive Director Roly Owers told BBC Sport: “This is an interesting development, but like any change, it must avoid unintended consequences.
“Deregistering horses from the food chain is not a welfare drug that could emerge and it will be important for BHA to monitor the impact of this change and act as needed.
“Equally, this change will make the need for lifelong responsibility and traceability more and more important for all former racehorses because the slaughterhouse will no longer be a way out.
“And until there is a robust digital equine identification system, there is still a risk that some racehorses will falsely enter a food chain in an underground store that we know carries serious risks to the welfare of horses.”