Animal Aid


Posted 26 March 2003
Horse racing


Modern race horses are subjected to such extreme patterns of in-breeding, training and competition that their fundamental well-being is under threat, and with it the very foundations of the racing industry.

The findings are contained in a major new report by Animal Aid, based on a comprehensive analysis of industry data, reports in scientific journals and commentaries by leading racing insiders.

Riding For A Fall: the genetic time bomb at the heart of racing is published to mark Horse Racing Awareness Week, the national campaign group's annual initiative, timed to coincide with the running of the Grand National.

Riding For A Fall reveals that, while many more foals than in previous decades are produced for racing, a rapidly declining percentage are deemed sufficiently healthy and robust to make the grade. The failures are simply discarded.

The report also shows that:

  • Bone fractures - once rare amongst flat racers - are now common, as a result of widespread in-breeding for speed.
  • Gastric ulcers and bleeding lungs are endemic.
  • Top breeding stallions are so over-worked that two of the three most coveted males both died in 2001 from suspected exhaustion.
  • Breeding females are subjected to a punishing regime of artificial treatments to control and speed up reproduction. And pressure is building for the introduction of technologies currently prohibited by racing's authorities. These include artificial insemination, embryo transfer and cloning.

Riding For A Fall points out that today's horse racing industry has much in common with livestock production. Both are committed to profit-driven mass output of progeny and the acceptance of a high 'wastage' rate.

In both industries there is an excessively heavy burden on breeding stock and high levels of endemic disease and musculoskeletal injury. The key difference is that the fate of sheep, cattle, pigs and chickens is limited to being mass produced, killed and eaten. They are not also required to serve as high-performance athletes.

Says Animal Aid director, Andrew Tyler:

"Horse racing is embedded deep in our culture. The face the industry presents to the public is sentimentally upbeat. But our new report shows that beneath the façade is a thoroughly ruthless industry motivated by vanity and commercial gain. Caught in the middle is the Thoroughbred horse - a 'resource' that is regarded as being easily mass produced and discarded. But what our new evidence points to is a level of exploitation that is not only extreme and cruel, it cannot be sustained."

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