The RSPCA has admitted for the first time it sends broken-down racehorses to slaughterhouses in New South Wales where their carcasses are processed into pet food.
The animal welfare body has been one of the strongest critics of thoroughbreds being sent to abattoirs and knackeries once they are retired from the racing industry.
RSPCA New South Wales told Daily Mail Australia it sometimes sent stock including thoroughbreds for commercial slaughter if no other option was available.
'On occasion the only mechanism for disposing of very diseased, unwell or aged stock animals is via abattoir or knackery facilities,' a spokeswoman said.
'RSPCA NSW has in the past sent stock to abattoir, and continues to do so in a variety of circumstances.'
One of the knackeries RSPCA NSW has used in the past is Burns Pet Foods in Sydney which featured in a recent ABC expose alleging thoroughbreds were being slaughtered on an industrial scale.
RSPCA NSW says it is sometimes forced to send animals including thoroughbreds to abattoirs and knackeries. Each state has its own RSPCA. Pictured are starving horses seized by RSPCA inspectors on a property in Western Australia in 2016
The ABC's 7.30 program screened footage of thoroughbreds being mistreated in an abattoir in south-east Queensland (pictured) and alleged hundreds of Australian racehorses were being sent to slaughter every year. Pictured is a dead horse on the floor of the Queensland abattoir
One of the knackeries RSPCA NSW has used in the past is Burns Pet Foods in Sydney which featured in a recent expose by the ABC suggesting thoroughbreds were being slaughtered on an industrial scale
Daily Mail Australia has been provided with an invoice from November 2012 which shows RSPCA NSW paying $300 for the transport of two horses including the delivery of one 'TB mare' to 'Burns PF'.
'TB' means thoroughbred. 'Burns PF' is Burns Pet Foods at Riverstone.
Burns Pet Foods, which processes horse meat for consumption by animals, has recently been prosecuted by the RSPCA for cruelty to cattle and sheep.
The company pleaded guilty in September to four counts of aggravated animal cruelty and one of failing to provide veterinary treatment.
It is not suggested the horses sent by RSPCA NSW to the knackery were in any way mistreated.
RSPCA NSW did not dispute the receipt showed a delivery to Burns Pet Foods but said the horses might have been euthanised before being taken there.
A spokesman said it was possible the animals had been in a condition which made it cruel to keep them alive and they were delivered dead to Burns Pet Foods.
'RSPCA NSW notes further that the obligation to rehome thoroughbreds by industry participants has only existed since 2017,' the spokesman said.
This invoice from a horse transport company dated November 2012 shows RSPCA NSW paying for the delivery of a 'TB [thoroughbred] mare' to 'Burns PF [Pet Foods]', a Sydney knackery
Footage aired on the ABC in October shows healthy thoroughbreds being mistreated and slaughtered for consumption in an investigation which has shaken the racing industry
In October the ABC's 7.30 program screened footage of thoroughbreds being mistreated in an abattoir in south-east Queensland and alleged hundreds of Australian racehorses were being sent to slaughter every year.
Hidden cameras showed that in just 22 days, more than 300 racehorses - winners of a combined $5million in prize money - were killed in the abattoir.
The report cited Racing Australia data which claimed fewer than 1 per cent of ex-racehorses were sent to abattoirs or knackeries, which would be 34 each year.
The ABC aired allegations animals sent to the Queensland abattoir were beaten, repeatedly stunned with electric prods and kicked while they were dying.
An RSPCA Queensland spokesman said that state body had never sent stock including thoroughbreds to abattoirs or knackeries under any circumstances.
Hidden camera footage provided to the ABC showed horses being mistreated at an abattoir in south-east Queensland (pictured). An RSPCA Queensland spokesman said the state body had never sent stock including thoroughbreds to abattoirs or knackeries under any circumstances
RSPCA Australia has said the oversupply and 'wastage' of horses in the racing industry led to animals being slaughtered. Pictured are starving horses seized by the RSPCA from a property in Western Australia in 2016
The day after the program screened RSPCA Australia's acting CEO Bidda Jones said the oversupply and 'wastage' of horses in the racing industry had led to animals being slaughtered.
'Like all Australians who saw last night's program, we were shocked and horrified - but sadly, not surprised - at the fate of of Australian thoroughbred and harness racing horses sent for slaughter, and the industry's alarming lack of acknowledgement or control over this,' Dr Jones said.
'Sadly, Australian racing authorities have become experts in ignoring the obvious, because it doesn't fit with their desired image.'
It took RSPCA NSW almost a month to respond to questions about whether it ever sent animals - particularly thoroughbreds - to knackeries.
A statement was eventually provided with input from the RSPCA inspectorate, which investigates allegations of animal mistreatment, and the body's own legal counsel.
A spokeswoman stressed she could speak on behalf of only RSPCA NSW and not the other state branches of the organisation which all operate independently.
While confirming it sometimes disposed of stock through abattoirs and knackeries RSPCA NSW did not say how often it did