MEDIA RELEASE: RACING NSW FAILS TO REPORT HORSE CRUELTY: Part of racehorse’s tongue “died” and had to be surgically removed after trainer left a tongue tie on, MP exposes in cruelty complaint to RSPCA

Racehorse “My Cousin James” had to have part of his necrotic tongue surgically removed after trainer Steven Phelps failed to remove a tongue tie, a Racing NSW Steward’s Report has revealed.

Upper House MP for the Animal Justice Party Mark Pearson issued a formal complaint to the RSPCA on 6 July 2021, and is calling for support on his bill that would see tongue-ties banned in NSW horse racing, along with whips and spurs.

Racehorses often have their tongues tied around their lower jaw by “tongue ties” (often made of rubber), in order to immbolise the tongue with the bit on top of it, making the horse easier to control.

Some trainers pull the tongue forward and sideways out of the mouth when tying.

Mr Pearson had previously written to the RSPCA on June 10 to find out if the RSPCA had investigated the case.

“The RSPCA NSW was not contacted by Racing NSW in relation to that complaint,” RSPCA NSW CEO Steve Coleman said in a letter to Mr Pearson on 12 June.

The tie had been placed on the tongue of gelding “My Cousin James” on the morning of 1 April at Ballina Race Track, and was only removed later that afternoon, by which time the horse’s tongue had become necrotic.

Mr Phelps was disqualified from racing for four months by Racing NSW.

“The fact that Racing NSW has dealt with this as an internal Racing NSW disciplinary matter is irrelevant to the legal duties imposed upon Mr Phelps by POCTAA as well as the public’s expectation that criminal sanctions should be applied in circumstances where negligence is found to have occurred,” Mr Pearson wrote in his second letter to Mr Coleman.

“I consider that based on the Steward’s charge of failure to exercise reasonable care, the serious pain and injury suffered by “My Cousin James” and Mr Phelp’s admission of guilt, there is strong prima facie evidence of a criminal breach of S.5(3) of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animal Act (1979) (POCTAA): ‘A person in charge of an animal shall not fail at any time (a) to exercise reasonable care, control or supervision of an animal to prevent the commission of an act of cruelty upon the animal’.”


The incident comes just months after Mr Pearson introduced a bill to NSW Parliament with the aim of banning the use of tongue-ties in horse racing, along with whips and spurs in horse racing.



“The time will come when the industry loses its social licence completely. Until that historic day, the bill protects the magnificent, majestic horses trapped within the industry from the worst of its practices,” Mr Pearson said in a speech to his bill on 17 February.


The bill would also criminalise sending ex-racehorses to knackeries, and put in place a birth-to-death racehorse registration and rehoming scheme.


A petition in support of the bill has over 11,000 signatures.

Media contact:
Elena Wewer – 0428 444 132