A Yorkshire Conservative MP has suggested Labour politicians should pick up a horse racing whip to see that "it doesn't hurt at all" after the party called for a review of their use in its new animal welfare manifesto.
The review will form part of its 50-point plan, set to be unveiled today, on protecting animals both in the UK and globally, said shadow environment secretary Sue Hayman.
Ms Hayman said Labour wanted to "bring Britain's animal welfare policy into the 21st century".
The British Horseracing Authority (BHA) has strict rules on the use of whipping, with jockeys limited to a maximum of seven times in a flat race or eight times in a jump race and the horse must be "in contention or clearly winning at the time" the force was applied. Jockeys disobeying such rules face suspension.
But Ms Hayman confirmed that, under a future Labour government, the party would look to review whether the use of whips in horse racing should be further restricted.
It was one of the top priorities raised in a consultation with members, animal rights groups and the public, said the party.
Labour's animal welfare manifesto, as well as implementing the review into horse race whipping, includes plans to ban trophy hunting imports, outlaw keeping primates such as apes and monkeys as pets, and putting a stop to electric pulse fishing.
Other measures will include ensuring the maximum sentence can be handed out if a defendant is found guilty of animal cruelty against a wild animal, banning the sale and use of snares and glue traps, and working internationally to stop the return of commercial whaling.
Philip Davies, Conservative MP for Shipley, said: “This is another idiotic policy from an Islington based Labour Party which doesn’t understand about horse racing or care about it.
“The new style whips don’t hurt in the slightest and I would advise Labour politicians to actually educate themselves, pick up a whip and see that it doesn’t hurt at all when used.
“Horse racing has the highest possible welfare standards. Nobody loves horses more than stable staff, trainers, owners and jockeys and they certainly don’t need any lessons in animal welfare from the the Labour townies”
A spokeswoman for animal charity RSPCA said: "We would welcome an independent review into the use of the whip. The RSPCA believes that the whip should only ever be used in racing for safety purposes.
"It should not be used to drive horses forward i.e. for encouragement, as it is likely that any effect is due to the infliction of pain and suffering and may expose the horse to increased risk of injury."
A spokesman for the BHA said whips were "carried as an essential aid to horsemanship and safety, which this Labour party policy proposal acknowledges".
It added that the design of the whip was foam-padded and energy absorbing and that the thresholds for use are "set well below the point at which its use might compromise the welfare of a horse".
Executive Director Will Lambe, said: “British racing’s high standards of horse welfare have been recognised by successive governments of all parties. We are confident that any external scrutiny of our sport will recognise the dedication and care shown by racing staff, including our jockeys, and the high quality of life experienced by our horses.
“We respect the right of politicians to ask questions of our sport and we can – and do – reassure them of the high standards of welfare in British racing, and the steps we are taking to enhance our welfare record and reputation.
"We have had constructive engagement with Labour’s Shadow Defra team to date, and will respond in a measured and united way as a sport way to ensure that the appropriate facts and information are set out confidently and fairly.”