Animal Aid

The Spectre of Death Comes to the Cheltenham Festival

Posted 4 March 2008

Date: 11 March 2008
Time: 1300 hrs
Location: The South - Centaur - Entrance (The Main Entrance) Cheltenham Racecourse

The spectre of death - representing hundreds of equine fatalities - will be present at Cheltenham Racecourse Tuesday, 11 March. Animal Aid’s Victorian lady will be dressed in dark, gothic robes and will be wearing a striking hat that features a model racehorse tumbling over a hurdle.

This genteel but sombre protest is to highlight the fact that 8 horses have died at this racecourse since the launch of Animal Aid’s online database, Race Horse Deathwatch, at the start of the 2007 Cheltenham Festival. The course’s fatality record is one of the very worst in the country. During the 2006 Festival, 11 horses perished in just four days.

In 2005, the national campaign group conducted an analysis of thousands of racing results going back four seasons, and found that Cheltenham topped the list of the country's most hazardous courses. In 2007/8, little has changed. The course is ranked second most lethal, falling just behind Sedgefield.

Says Animal Aid Horse Racing Consultant, Dene Stansall:

'This is one of the worst courses in the country, with an appalling record for killing horses. If the public knew what they were supporting with their betting and course attendance money, they would turn their backs on this Festival of Death. Despite Cheltenham racecourse's assurances that it has made the course safer, we are still extremely worried about the fate of horses racing at this year’s event.'

Notes to editors:

  • More than 400 horses are raced to death every year. Animal Aid has produced a report showing that 38% of these deaths occur during or soon after a race, with the remainder killed due to injuries received in training, or because they are considered to be no longer profitable.
  • Of the approximately 18,000 horses bred each year by the closely related British and Irish racing industries, only around 40% go on to race. Many of the ‘defective’ newborns end up slaughtered for meat, while those who do enter racing suffer a high level of fatal injuries and stress-related illnesses, such as gastric ulcers and bleeding lungs. Around 6,000 British race horses are retired each year, yet very few go on to a sanctuary or adoptive home.

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