Animal Aid

Grand National Horse deaths on the Parliamentary agenda

Posted 29 August 2012

More than 20 MPs have so far indicated that they will be attending a special Parliamentary reception on 4 September, whose focus will be the alarming level of deaths in the annual Grand National race at Aintree racecourse.

The Grand National has a horse fatality rate more than five times higher than other jump races in Britain, according to the industry’s own regulatory body, the British Horseracing Authority (1). In last April’s event, the favourite, Synchronised, was killed, as was outsider According To Pete. Two horses also perished in 2011, provoking strong public outrage. Those earlier victims were Ornais and Dooneys Gate.

The Grand National is run over a stamina-sapping four-and-a-half miles, on a course comprising 16 uniquely challenging and hazardous fences – 14 of which are jumped twice.

Public support for the event has declined significantly in recent years, according to an NOP opinion poll commissioned by Animal Aid in August 2011. Most people who expressed a clear opinion said that the race is cruel. In an equivalent 2003 poll, most people thought that the race was not cruel (2).

At the 4 September reception, which is hosted by Liberal Democrat MP Mike Hancock, Animal Aid’s Horseracing Consultant Dene Stansall will be showing a brief film outlining the welfare problems integral to the Aintree event, and will discuss its future. A new House of Commons Early Day Motion will soon be tabled, calling for the Government to draw up a Code of Practice for all race meetings, under the Animal Welfare Act (2006).

Says Animal Aid Horse racing Consultant Dene Stansall:

‘By any measure, the Grand National is an extraordinarily hazardous race for horses – and deliberately so in order to make it more “exciting”. Horses break their necks, backs or legs while running in it. Such depressing outcomes are not “accidents”, as race apologists claim. They are entirely predictable. The September 4th reception will be an excellent opportunity to press the case for a new Code of Practice, under the Animal Welfare Act, that will set minimum welfare standards for all races in Britain and, in so doing, outlaw the kind of extreme hazards that Grand National entrants are forced to confront.’

More information

Notes to Editors

  1. The BHA’s website notes that the average National Hunt fatality rate is around four per 1,000 runners, whereas the Grand National’s is 23 per 1,000 runners.

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