The government has issued its support to the British Horseracing Authority (BHA), after a petition lobbied for the group to cease responsibility of racehorse welfare.

The e-petition, which was signed by more than 105,000 signatures, led to the issue being debated in Westminster. However, the government used the debate to praise of the work of the BHA, before confirming that welfare would continue to be at the top of the agenda moving forward.

David Rutley,Secretary of State at the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, underlined the department’s support for the BHA by stating: “We must do all that we can to reduce the fatalities whilst racing on the track.

“With the work they have done to further reduce the number of fatalities at racetracks the government does not see a need to take a different approach by creating a new body.

“That does not mean that the BHA should not continue to be held to account and they should of course have to continue to explain what they do in an open and transparent way.”

In spite of lauding British horseracing, describing it as a “national success story”, Labour’s spokesman Luke Pollard affirmed his belief that there is room for improvement within the sport.

“We want it to work harder, faster and smarter to improve equine welfare and set transparent targets that can be independently verified,” he said.

“If Labour was in government, I would be demanding a greater set of targets for the industry looking at how we can set out how horse deaths involved with horseracing can be reduced.”

BHA chief executive Nick Rust commented: “We are pleased that government has today reaffirmed its support for the BHA as racing’s independent regulator for equine welfare.

“Our track record of working responsibly to make racing safer for our horses – and our constructive relationship with welfare groups such as the RSPCA and World Horse Welfare – was fully acknowledged.

“All those who spoke were united with us in a desire to see further improvements. We share the ambitions expressed by MPs from all parties to make racing even safer.

“We encourage all those working in our sport to improve welfare standards to read carefully the contributions to the debate as we develop more ambitious plans for the future.”

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