Australian authorities have launched an investigation into suspected animal cruelty after a TV report revealed the alleged mass slaughter of racehorses.
Footage of horses allegedly being mistreated at an abattoir in Queensland caused widespread anger when it was aired on broadcaster ABC on Thursday.
The slaughter of racehorses is legal in Australia, but industry rules in some states require horses to be “rehomed”.
Racing is a popular and lucrative industry in the nation.
Officials described the allegations – which come ahead of Australia’s main spring racing season – as horrifying.
“The mistreatment of animals is abhorrent,” Queensland Racing Minister Stirling Hinchliffe said on Friday.
He said state authorities had immediately sent inspectors to one of abattoirs named in the report on ABC’s 7.30 programme.
It alleged that 300 racehorses were killed over a 22-day period at the abattoir. The report also broadcast claims of horses being beaten and mistreated in other ways.
On Friday Racing Australia, the national industry body, said it did not have the ability to track racehorses after they retired from competition. It reiterated calls for a national register to be established.
About 8,500 horses nationally are retired from the track each year, the ABC reported. Racing Australia said it believed less than 1% of such animals ended up in an abattoir.
The industry has long drawn criticism from animal welfare groups.
Tens of thousands of people are expected to attend Australia’s spring racing events. The nation’s most prestigious race, the Melbourne Cup, will be held on 5 November.