Below is Christopher Hector’s Editorial from the April issue of The Horse Magazine.
This morning, I read a disturbing report in The Age. It seems that Andrew Duff, a barrier attendant at Warrnambool races, was charged by the RSPCA with animal cruelty arising from an incident in which a jumping horse, Sirrocean Storm broke its leg during a race in May 2010. Mr Duff rushed to the horse, and led it off the track before the rest of the field returned on the second lap. A screen was set up, and the horse put down. Quick thinking you might have thought and action that probably averted a much greater tragedy had the injured horse attempted to rejoin the rest of the field.
Not according to the resident RSPCA ‘expert’ Professor Paul McGreevy. According to McGreevy, Duff’s actions were unnecessary because the jockey had effectively restrained the horse from a flight response by making it walk in a tight circle around him. The rest of the field could have been diverted around the injured animal or the race stopped, McGreevy claimed.
Luckily three leading equine vets prepared – free of charge – reports for Mr Duff’s defense. They criticized McGreevy’s evidence, holding that the RSPCA’s prosecution brief was ‘curious, obsessive, lacking serious experience of handling injured or distressed horses, and a philosophical or political intrusion.’
According to The Age report: “The veterinarians said Mr Duff risked his life to prevent a further ‘catastrophic’ accident from happening, and that it would have been impossible to forcibly move the wounded animal, which weighed about half a tonne. ‘The concept that an 80 or 90-kilogram man could drag or pull an unwilling horse is patently absurd,’ veterinarian of 40 years, Paul Kavenagh said. Dr Kavenagh said in most horses with injuries such as Sirrocean Storm’s, the ‘swinging part of the fractured limb has no blood supply and more importantly it would have no feeling with badly damaged or severed nerves. Therefore I can see no reason why any of the actions of Mr Duff would have caused the horse to have additional pain. Professor McGreevy seems to be obsessed about keeping the horse moving in a small circle as the jockey had done. He gives no information or explanation as to why this would be less painful than moving in a straight (line). It would appear to me with 40 years’ experience that these accusations have ben made by persons with limited or no serious firsthand experience of handling injured or distressed horses.”
“Dr Kavenagh also said the first response of the injured horse had it been left near the track would have been to attempt to rejoin the mob of horses. ‘This would have the effect of causing further distress to the injured horse,’ he said. ‘Consequently, it would have been most likely that other horses racing past would have been distracted or spooked, with the possibility of causing further accidental injury. The suggestion by the professor that the race be stopped or re-routed is not really relevant as Mr Duff would not have had the authority or mechanism to carry this out. This appears to be a philosophical or political intrusion into this serious accusation against Mr Duff.”
So after holding this threat of 12 month’s jail or a $14,000 fine and banishment from working with animals for 10 years over the poor Mr Duff’s head – plus demonizing him by using his photo on anti-jumping posters, the RSPCA finally withdrew the charge, ending two years of nightmare for Andrew Duff.
These self-appointed equestrian experts are a threat to us all, and make no mistake, they are very good at manipulating a media that really doesn’t understand horses. Already The Australian newspaper is an hysterical supporter of their anti-jumps races campaign. When they have finished with jumps racing, eventing will be next, then showjumping and dressage. We will be in their sights before too long, and then some of us might be singled out to know what it felt like to be Andrew Duff.
- Chris Hector
Since this editorial was published in the April Magazine the conversation has been picked up on the online forum for Cyberhorse, the link is below: