Horse racing – what does it mean to care about equine welfare?

Crawford School of Public Policy | Executive course
Policy Fundamentals


A deep understanding of Natural Resource Management (NRM) is crucial to the effective management of the system. Throughout the program participants will be guided by experts in the field to plan strategic policy interventions and broaden their knowledge of NRM to skilfully identify opportunities free from path dependence, ethical dimensions and manage NRM contracts and relationships.

Course overview


Every Spring in Australia the Thoroughbred Racing Spring Carnival rolls around and with it controversy about the racing industry’s treatment of horses. There is longstanding concern among parts of Australian (and international) society that race training practices impose harm on horses (e.g. horses subject to intense training regimes at early ages and subsequently break down, retired racing horses and/or horses never reaching the track sent to abbatoirs for slaughter, etc). A recent ABC current affairs program – Four Corners – highlighted an example of cruel treatment of racehorses sent for slaughter. We are left to ask how society can afford racehorses better care and how we can better manage controversial public issues.


‘Animal welfare’ is typically about preventing or reducing suffering and maximising animals’ well-being. Animal welfare considerations can apply to animals used for food, research, those kept in captivity (pets, zoos), and wild species. Since animals are part of natural systems and will be affected by our use and alteration of those systems, animal welfare can be seen as part of environmental and natural resource management. However, animal welfare approaches vary and are widely debated, depending on people’s fundamental values and beliefs about how much and what kind of action should be taken to: protect animals for their own sake versus their use to us; prioritise the well-being of ecosystems and species over individual animals; and/or prioritise some species’ and animals’ needs over others (e.g. mammals versus fish and invertebrates). The diversity of views about how best to deal with racehorses’ treatment are no less disputed. This module will develop an understanding of how policy on animal welfare can address these tensions.

Learning outcomes:

  • Demonstrate an understanding of the meaning of ‘animal welfare’ generally and how it applies to the racing industry;
  • Demonstrate an understanding of the range of beliefs about and attitudes towards non-human nature and how those perspectives inform animal welfare controversies;
  • Analyze and evaluate the range of positions taken in relation to racehorse welfare; and
  • Improve their capacity for issues management in their particular field of interest.

Updated:  26 October 2021/Responsible Officer:  Crawford Engagement/Page Contact:  CAP Web Team