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Editors' Take

Editors' Take

Melbourne Cup: Will Australian racing overcome cruelty scandals?

As Australia holds its most famous race, revelations of mistreatment of horses at an abattoir in Queensland have ignited coast-to-coast revulsion.

Last month allegations were aired that hundreds of registered racehorses are being sent to slaughterhouses in breach of racing rules and animal welfare guarantees.

The grim footage could not be further from the carnival and riches of Tuesday’s Melbourne Cup, arguably Australia’s most glittering sporting occasion.

The exposé by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) and other scandals – including several recent race-day deaths – have dramatically escalated scrutiny of the sport.

Are Australian attitudes changing?

Shocking video

The abattoir footage, secretly gathered over two years, is pitiful and bloodthirsty. Abattoir workers are shown kicking horses in the head, attacking them with pipes and applying electric shocks to their genitals.

Trapped inside so-called “kill boxes”, the horses can barely move, while other animals watch on, defenceless and grimly waiting their turn.

A member of staff is heard swearing at the horses, calling them “maggots” and shouting “you’re going to… die here”. Another appears to cheer on as one animal is despatched. Some of the condemned gallopers are under two years old.

In the background, saccharine pop music can be heard – a disarranged soundtrack to a sad end for animals who were once celebrated by punters across Australia.

Although not household names, Take A Chance, Rapid Feet and Moonlight Dancer won races and prize money for their owners before they disappeared. Some horse meat was reportedly sold for human consumption overseas.

A tipping point?

“We only rarely see our supporters and other concerned Australians react with such anger and outrage, as they have to this issue,” Dr Bidda Jones, the acting head of RSPCA Australia, tells the BBC.

“This issue has significantly knocked Australian racing’s reputation and blown a huge hole in their claims that horse welfare is paramount and racehorses are treated like kings. This should very much be viewed as a crisis and a tipping point for the industry.”

The slaughter of thoroughbreds is legal in Australia, but regulations in some states require horses to be “rehomed”, or given a chance to run free with families, farms or charities.

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But the brutality inflicted on the unwanted – officials call them “wastage” – is reportedly taking place every week, despite Racing Australia, the governing body, introducing a “traceability rule” in 2016 requiring the registration and tracking of all horses from birth to retirement.

“The horses are the stars of our sport and no-one will argue that they must be treated as such,” said Brian Kruger, the chairman of Racing Victoria, a state body.

In response to the slaughterhouse scandal, it announced it would spend A$25m (£13m; $17m) to care for thoroughbreds from the stable to the grave.

“We understand that the development of a national database for all horses will be a complex matter. We welcome the opportunity to work with government to trial a pilot scheme for thoroughbreds.”

What can the industry do?

Welfare campaigners argue that one of the fundamental problems is over-breeding. It is a scattergun, conveyor-belt policy of producing thousands of foals each year in the unrelenting search for a diamond in the straw.

Regulating or capping the number of newborns could be hard to enforce, but another radical move – banning the whip – is supported by activists and some sporting heavyweights.

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20 Most Famous Old Airplanes and Aircraft of All Time

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Editors' Take

Boris Johnson ‘suppressing’ Russia report until after UK election, lawmakers say

Why calling a general election is a big gamble for Johnson 01:15

London Prime Minister Boris Johnson is under fire over accusations from lawmakers that the UK government is intentionally delaying the release of a report into Russia’s influence in British politics until after the upcoming election.

The failure of the Prime Minister to approve the publication of the report has sparked outrage from members of the Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC), which compiled the report, and opposition lawmakers who accused the government of a coverup.
The chair of the ISC, former attorney general and MP Dominic Grieve, raised the issue in an urgent question to the government in Parliament on Tuesday, demanding an explanation for “the refusal of the Prime Minister to give clearance to the Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament’s report on Russia.”
Grieve, who used to be member of the Conservative
Party, told Parliament the report was completed in March, thoroughly reviewed by the country’s intelligence agencies, and then sent to Johnson for “final confirmation” on October 17. He added that according to longstanding agreement, the Prime Minister would endeavor to respond within 10 days. Since the report is from the ISC, which has access to classified information, the release of the report must be personally signed off by Johnson.
Foreign office minister Christopher Pincher defended the government’s position on Tuesday and offered no suggestion that the report would be signed off soon, telling Grieve that it was not unusual for reports such as this one to go through “an intensive security review before publication.”
Grieve said the intelligence agencies had indicated that the publication of the report would not damage any of their operational capabilities, and therefore there was no reason to delay it.
“The report has to be laid before parliament when it is sitting,” he said, pointing to the fact that Parliament is set to be dissolved at midnight Wednesday ahead of a crucial general election on December 12.
“If it is not laid before Parliament ceases to sit this evening, it will not be capable of being laid until the committee is reformed, and in 2017 that took nearly six months,” Grieve added.
Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry said the delay was “nothing less than an attempt to suppress the truth from the public and from Parliament, and it is an affront to our democracy.”
Thornberry then accused the government of delaying publication for political reasons: “I fear it is because they realize that this report will lead to other questions about the links between Russia and Brexit and with the current leadership of the Tory party, which risks derailing their election campaign.”
Other members of the ISC have also criticized the government’s apparent reluctance to release the report.
“As far as the committee is concerned, this report has been cleared by the intelligence and security agencies, it’s been cleared by the Cabinet Office, and the civil servants and officials saw no reason whatsoever why it should not have been published,” Keith Simpson, a Conservative member of the ISC, told Parliament.
Another Conservative MP who sits on the committee, Richard Benyon, said that the delay in the publishing has allowed some “quite bizarre conspiracy theories” to be circulated. He said it would be “much better to publish what has been written.”
Pincher stuck to the same line — the report is being reviewed — despite the barrage of questions from lawmakers across party lines.
Earlier on Tuesday, Lord Evans of Weardale, who was MI5 director general until 2013, told BBC Radio 4’s Today program that if ministers were not prepared to release it, they should explain why.
“In principle, I think it should be released,” he said. “Part of the reason for having an Intelligence and Security Committee is that issues of public concern can be properly considered and the public can be informed through the publication of the reports once they have gone through the
security process.”
“If the government have a reason why this should not be published before the election, then I think they should make it very clear what that reason is.”
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Digital Photos: 20 Tips Can Help Save Your Stories, Memory and Life

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