Whip use in Thoroughbred racing is painful and unnecessary for the sport, despite suggestions to the contrary released in an official United Kingdom racing guide, according to a group of equitation scientists. But the authority that published that racing guide is standing by its report.

Paul McGreevy, BVSc, PhD, MRCVS, MACVS (Animal Welfare), professor of Animal Behavior and Animal Welfare Science at the University of Sydney, in Australia, believes the British Horseracing Authority’s (BHA) 2011 report, Responsible Regulation: A Review of the Use of the Whip in Horseracing, defends the use of the whip based on unfounded scientific principles.

“Horse whipping is arguably the most public and visible form of violence to animals,” McGreevy said.

McGreevy criticized the BHA report in a recently published open-access review co-authored by fellow Australian scientist Bidda Jones, PhD; Australian lawyer Jed Goodfellow, PhD; and UK veterinarian James Yeates, BVSc, BSc, DWEL, PhD, MRCVS.

The BHA report claims that when used appropriately a whip is not painful to a horse, and that it is only painful when used incorrectly, the authors noted. However, McGreevy said there is no scientific basis for this assertion. The BHA report also indicates that racing horses do not feel the pain of the whip due to the adrenaline of the race—a phenomenon known as “battlefield analgesia.” But there are no equine data to support this assertion, either, McGreevy added.

The BHA report also states that the whip is necessary for rider safety and is