Executive Summary

Over the past nine months, the Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport References Committee has received extensive evidence that has identified significant gaps in the understanding and management of Australia's horse population. Whilst an owner of a dog or cat is required to register their animal with their local council, and pigs, goats, sheep and cattle are registered under the National Livestock Identification System, horse owners are omitted from similar regulatory requirements. The most pertinent example is the absence of any clear data on the number of horses that exist in Australia. Further, there is inadequate information available about the location of horses or owner details. Existing industry registers are piecemeal and do not capture the entire industry.
The committee is convinced of the merits of establishing a national horse traceability register.
There is overwhelming support across the horse industry for a national horse traceability register in some form. However, one of the primary challenges revealed during this inquiry is achieving consensus across the horse industry of a single, clear rationale for a national register.
This challenge is driven by the diverse nature of the horse industry, with each sector having its own idea of what a horse traceability register would look like, and what purpose it would serve. Proposed functions of a register included addressing the industry's biosecurity concerns, identifying horses during natural disasters, horse theft, improved rider safety, horse welfare, regulatory compliance and accessing international horsemeat markets and improved breeding practices.
Biosecurity function
The committee, however, has determined that the primary rationale for a national traceability register is a biosecurity function. A national horse traceability register designed for biosecurity purposes would help guide its development, and assist with achieving consensus across the horse industry and governments. A biosecurity function also compels the Commonwealth's participation in the creation of a national register, as part of its biosecurity responsibilities.
Data requirements
A core biosecurity function would also assist with formulating the register's initial data requirements. Further, it is apparent to the committee that the data must be populated from existing industry databases and shared onto a central database. This approach must be seamless, and avoid placing any unnecessary burden onto industry. It must also be designed to accommodate data uploads by horse owners that are not associated with any industry group, such as farmers, the recreational sector and horse owners in remote locations.
Horse welfare and the racing industry
Both the public's confidence in the racing industry, and its social licence to operate were called into question with the alleged horse treatment and welfare concerns revealed by the ABC's 7:30 investigation into the racing industry. Footage provided to the investigation showed the mistreatment of horses at a Queensland abattoir, who were subjected to beatings and electrocutions, and in clear distress at the time of their death.1 The footage, which shocked the nation, reignited calls for improved horse welfare outcomes and a national horse traceability register to strengthen accountability.2
The evidence submitted to this inquiry revealed the significant impact a lack of traceability has had concerning the killing of horses at Australia's abattoirs and knackeries. There is no data available to determine how many horses are killed at these facilities each year, which has meant that any associated welfare issues are also hidden from public view.
For this reason, the committee calls upon the racing industry to work alongside government to ensure a national horse traceability register complements and bolsters its efforts to track retired horses and to ensure its horses live healthy, happy and long lives. Further, any traceability infrastructure must be incorporated into the horse supply chain, including abattoirs and knackeries, to ensure these facilities are adequately monitored and meet Australia's international horsemeat trade obligations.
Key challenges—funding
One of the primary challenges to the establishment of a national horse traceability register is the upfront funding required to create the register, and ensure its ongoing operation. Existing national traceability systems, such as the NLIS and PigPass, provide examples of the type of funding arrangements that are required. Further, the committee heard support for cost-recovery mechanisms and co-investment models between industry and governments to be considered. Failure to establish sufficient funding arrangements will undermine the potential success of a national traceability register.
Compliance, enforcement and education
Ensuring long-term funding arrangements would also support the compliance, enforcement and educational needs of a register. The experience of the Integrity Systems Company (ISC) as detailed in this report, emphasised the importance of ensuring that a national traceability register is designed with a compliance and educational regime in place. Further, it must be supported by stakeholder investment into the system as a means to strengthen compliance. In order to achieve this investment, the register must be of value to the horse industry and driven by a commercial interest.
This commercial interest should be supported by a design that enables additional features to be incorporated into the system, and allows for the horse industry to take responsibility for any future functionality amendments.
National horse traceability working group
To progress a national horse traceability register, and to action the recommendations contained within this report, the committee has called for the Department of Agriculture to establish a national horse traceability working group. This working group would operate under the auspices of the Agriculture Senior Officials Committee, and be tasked to progress the development and implementation of a national horse traceability register. In addition to representation from state and territory governments, who are primarily responsible for establishing the regulatory requirements of a national register, representatives from the horse industry and other key stakeholders, such as the ISC and Animal Health Australia, should be included. The committee foresees this working group ultimately working towards a trial phase of a national horse traceability register.
Concluding comments
Finally, the committee extends its gratitude to all those who have participated in this inquiry. Horses are deeply loved by their owners and are highly regarded by the community at large. The committee has been moved by the compassion demonstrated by many people in the horse industry who have tirelessly advocated for a national horse traceability register.


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