Animal Aid

As attention is focused on the Grand National... Huge rise in horse deaths recorded on courses across the country

Posted 28 March 2014

Horse welfare has become a major talking point in the run-up to the three-day Grand National meeting at Aintree, which starts on Thursday, April 3rd. But virtually unremarked upon has been the recent shocking death toll at other racecourses around the country.

During March, Animal Aid can confirm that at least 22 horses have been killed, with Sedgefield, Newcastle, Wincanton and Cheltenham each seeing two horses die during a single day’s racing this month. The overall equine death rate for March is more than four times higher than for the same month last year, when five horses died.

Animal Aid records all on-course horse deaths – as best it can – and makes them public through its online database, called Race Horse DeathWatch. The initiative was launched in March 2007, since which time around three horse deaths have been recorded each week.

A large number of racecourse deaths occur that Animal Aid is unable to log, due to the racing industry’s reluctance to make such fatalities public. However, in answer to a Parliamentary Question last year, racing’s regulator, the British Horseracing Authority (BHA), made public the number of on-course fatalities for 2010, 2011 and 2012. On average, around 200 horses were killed during each of those years. The total is more than one-third higher than the number DeathWatch recorded (see Notes).

Given this background, it is likely that Animal Aid’s equine fatality figures for March also underestimate the true rate of attrition.

The national campaign group again demands that the BHA publishes, on an ongoing basis, the equine on-course death toll – and that it expresses the data plainly. This requires specifying the number of horses killed, their names, where the fatalities occurred and the injuries sustained.

The BHA must also offer a credible explanation as to why the death rate this March is more than four times higher than in March last year – and set out what it intends to do to remedy the problem.

Says Animal Aid Horse Racing Consultant, Dene Stansall:

‘The Grand National has high risk designed into it, making the race an efficient killer of horses. But, as we approach the noisily hyped 2014 event, we need also to consider the many silent equine victims being killed at racecourses around the country. Animal Aid is calling on the British Horseracing Authority finally to dispense with its complacency, drop the excuses and admit that there is a major horse welfare problem – one that, as an apologist for the racing industry, it is incapable of addressing.’

Notes to Editors:

For further information and interviews, contact Dene Stansall or Andrew Tyler on 01732 364546

The names of the horses killed in March, the courses on which the fatalities occurred and the nature of the injuries suffered can be found on Race Horse DeathWatch

In 2010, Animal Aid’s Deathwatch recorded a total of 145 deaths, when the true figure was 225. The equivalent figures for 2011 and 2012 are respectively 157 (BHA: 171) and 143 (BHA: 211). View the parliamentary question

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