The International Racing Club has called the incident at the Fairview racecourse in Port Elizabeth a “low day in SA history for horse racing”.
On Thursday morning about 6am staff began a violent protest at the racecourse which culminated in the slaughter of a horse and wounding of others.
According to the International Racing Club, staff who had been fired for the stabbing of a racehorse earlier this year were retaliating against the trainer, killing and maiming horses and physically threatening her.
The Racing Club is calling on racing authority Phumelela to take action against those involved.
In February, a trainer dismissed an employee who had allegedly stabbed a horse. The dismissal led to a protest by a group of disgruntled grooms. Reports by the Sporting Post in March state the trainer went to the high court in a move to restore order and secure the safety of her horses and personnel. The order was granted, restraining respondents from entering her stable premises and threatening her and other staff.
The unrest has been simmering since then. A CCMA ruling this week to uphold the groom’s firing is said to be the reason for Thursday’s protest.
International Racing Club spokesperson Michael de Haast, who said he personally lost horses in the attack, said something had to be done to stop “this incredible violence and abuse against these animals”.
He said maimed horses would need to be put to sleep.
“The yard, which contains many horses owned by the international racing syndicate … who over the past few years has invested more than R20m into the sport of racing in SA, want racing authority Phumelela to take swift, decisive action.”
He said it was alleged that a group of ex-employees, “who are a known threat to the yard and whom the yard have a court interdict against”, had been living in an informal settlement near the Phumelela racing grounds, despite having been fired for stabbing a horse”.
“We want action now, we are calling on all trainers and other yards to stop all racing immediately until Phumelela take responsibility for what is happening and protect these horses.”
“What is worrying is that the trainer at this yard is a woman and she is being threatened with physical violence if she tries to protect the horses. Gender-based violence, a scourge in our country, is able to rear its ugly head in this situation too. Something has to be done.
“It is a very sad day in this country when innocent animals are slaughtered and abused due to greed and hate. As Gandhi said: ‘The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated’ — and I fear that our nation has lost its way unless we take a very big stand against this,” De Haast said.
Phumelela Gaming have yet to make a statement.
Meanwhile, police spokesperson Col Priscilla Naidu said one horse was killed when a group of about 150-200 people from a nearby informal settlement descended on the racecourse armed with various weapons.
The protesters were later dispersed by members of the public order police unit and flying squad members who had reported to the scene.
Meg Wilson, spokesperson for the NSPCA, said action would be taken to prosecute those involved.
Police confirmed that 28 horses were let loose from the holding stables, and six horses had been recovered and brought back.
BY Alex Patrick