The use of whips in Australian harness races will be banned next year in a landmark effort to improve animal welfare in the sport.
While jockeys are still allowed to whip horses in thoroughbred racing, Harness Racing Australia (HRA) announced on Saturday that the practice would be outlawed in its sport from September 2017.
HRA said the move would make Australia the first nation to ban the whip voluntarily.
"We see the ban as a vital way of demonstrating our responsibility as an industry, and to earning and maintaining the social acceptance and sustainability of harness racing," HRA chairman Geoff Want said on Saturday.
"The whip ban decision was not taken lightly, but was made on our own initiative because we believe it is the right decision at the right time."
Harness racing to ban the use of whips: https://t.co/nHPoM6MgAY— Punters.com.au (@Punters) December 9, 2016
Want was confident the ban would have the support of fans, participants and the wagering industry, saying it built on the code's zero-tolerance to prohibited substances in racing.
He said a September 2017 date for the start of the ban would allow enough time to set up industry awareness, education and research, including into how drivers would now control unruly horses.
RSPCA Australia chief executive Heather Neil welcomed the ban.
"As Harness Racing Australia has recognised, racing should celebrate quality horsemanship, breeding and training -- whips shouldn't come into it," she said.
The trots more glamorous counterpart, thoroughbred racing, brought in stricter whip rules in December 2015, restricting it to five forehand or backhand whip strikes prior to the 100 metres.
HRA's announcement comes after recent debate about the future of the NSW greyhound racing industry amid claims of widespread animal cruelty. The Baird government announced earlier this year that the industry would shut down, but later reversed the decision after opposition.
However, there remain a significant number supporters of a greyhound racing industry shutdown, especially among animal rights groups.