Korea Racing Authority Responds To Equine Welfare Critiques, Restricting Imports Due To COVID Uncertainty - Horse Racing News | Paulick Report
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Korea Racing Authority Responds To Equine Welfare Critiques, Restricting Imports Due To COVID Uncertainty

Racing in South Korea

Following is a statement from the Korea Racing Authority regarding its racing program through COVID-19 and equine welfare issues.

The matter of equine welfare in Korea gained national attention on Dec. 16 when The Stronach Group endorsed People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals' call to ban the sale of Thoroughbreds to South Korean racing interests, in the wake of a video revealing that former U.S. stallion Private Vow was sent to slaughter in the country.

KRA has temporarily restricted foreign-bred horses imported after Nov. 15, 2020 from being registered to race at Korean racetracks next year.

This measure is valid for the year of 2021, and was implemented with the following background;

1. KRA has tried to walk in line with the Korean government's quarantine policies by minimizing overseas traveling related to purchasing of foreign-bred horses.

2. Owners have suffered a reduction of purchasing power due to the reduced number of races and prize money that resulted from the COVID-19 outbreak and strict social distancing rules.
* The total number of races in Korea have been reduced by 56 percent
* Total prize money for owners has been reduced by 27 percent

3. Demand for race horses has dropped dramatically due to the uncertainty over racing next year. The expected return of buying and owning a horse has been significantly reduced under the KRA Emergency Racing System.
* KRA Emergency Racing System: Racing fixtures will be released only on a quarterly basis with a reduced number of races (number of races planned for first quarter of 2021 has been reduced by 38 percent and the total owner prize money by 60 percent year on year).

4. The Korean breeding industry is in a state of near-collapse, as the non-racing period continued longer than expected, and was in desperate need of protective measures.

With regard to aftercare for retired Thoroughbreds, the KRA has established and is operating the Retired Racehorse Management Program. It has benchmarked aftercare programs worldwide. It includes funding for professional institutions that re-train retired racehorses to help them transition into a second career. The fund to run the program comes partially from prize money and partially from a donation from the KRA.

Among other initiatives, KRA regularly hosts a “Best Retired Thoroughbred” competition to expedite the career transition of racehorses. Prizes are awarded to those who have successfully transitioned to equestrian horses, and these competition and prizes are intended to provide more opportunities for retired racehorses to be better utilized as equestrian horses.

To enable better management, KRA is developing a registry system to keep track of not only horses currently registered for racing or breeding, but to also include retired horses to be monitored.

KRA has released an Equine Welfare Guideline, which serves as the fundamental basis for management and usage of all horses in Korea and provides ongoing education on the guidelines for horse connections.

An Equine Welfare Committee has been established by the KRA which includes external members from animal welfare/behavior specialists and animal protection groups with a mission to create and monitor an advanced equine welfare policy.

KRA also takes part in the IFAR (International Forum for the Aftercare of Racehorses), and has hosted international seminars with overseas equine welfare specialists in an effort to improve the equine welfare level in Korea.

Equestrian competitions have had their qualification criteria amended so more retired racehorses can participate. KRA has also hosted a new equestrian competition open only to retired racehorses to expand the demand and market for them.

No horse is imported to Korea for slaughter purposes. While slaughter is legal in Korea and is carried out in regulated facilities, the Animal Protection Act covers the mistreatment of horses during that process. Those involved in the previously highlighted cases of mistreatment have been legally punished earlier this year.

As mentioned above, KRA has established base guidelines for retired horses, and they are regularly released to educate horse connections. Notwithstanding the above, the ownership of horses and the right to dispose them belong to owners and are not subject to external intervention. Horses owned by the KRA are strictly managed under welfare guidelines. Retired KRA stallions have their welfare assured for the rest of their natural lives and are commemorated after death for their contributions.

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