Animal Aid

Open letter regarding Cheltenham Racecourse

Posted 2 July 2014

Animal Aid has today sent an open letter to horse racing’s regulatory and representative bodies, strongly criticising their decision to ignore an important report analysing the reasons why Cheltenham Racecourse kills more horses than any other in Britain. The letter has been sent to the British Horseracing Authority, the National Trainers Federation, the Professional Jockeys Association, the Racehorse Owners Association, the Jockey Club and Cheltenham Racecourse. The text reads as follows:

“Commercial horse racing enjoys a uniquely privileged position in that, when it comes to horse welfare, it is left essentially to govern itself and to set many of its own rules. This is despite around 200 horses dying on British racecourses every year and a similar number being killed during training. In a typical year, one out of every 37 horses who starts the jump race season will be dead by the end of it.

Animal Aid has assiduously monitored racing’s welfare record for more than 15 years. We publish reports, conduct detailed investigations and maintain our unique and increasingly influential online database, Race Horse DeathWatch, which records all on-course deaths that come to our attention.

In February, we published an important report with the self-explanatory title of Why more horses die at Cheltenham than at any other British Racecourse. It revealed that, since the launch of DeathWatch in March 2007, 48 horses had died in 733 races staged on 110 race days at the Gloucestershire course (five more have died since publication).

The report, through numerous charts, tables and diagrams, seeks to set out why Cheltenham is such a prodigious killer of horses.

Why more horses die at Cheltenham than at any other British Racecourse was sent to all of racing’s leading representative bodies, including the British Horseracing Authority, the National Trainers Federation, the Professional Jockeys Association, the Racehorse Owners Association and Cheltenham Racecourse itself. Not one replied. The report and covering letter were sent twice more – and, again, there was no response.

Whatever these bodies might think of Animal Aid’s view of commercial horse racing (we are highly critical of its impact on horse welfare) we are, in the jargon, a legitimate stakeholder with respect to the debate about race horse welfare. We have equine expertise, important information to impart and practical measures to suggest. Our Cheltenham report embodies all those facets.

As previously indicated, racing enjoys a degree of self-regulation that is rare for an industry turning over billions of pounds annually. Animal Aid is firmly of the view that its regulatory and representative bodies have a clear obligation to respond seriously to serious submissions by key contributors to the debate on race horse welfare. As the BHA declares on its own website: It is ‘our responsibility to care for our horses and reduce unnecessary risks’.

In the current instance, that means studying our Cheltenham report. If, having read it, the view is that it is without substance and significance, then credible arguments should be offered to support that view. Otherwise, racing should act upon our findings.

We regard our Cheltenham report as providing an interim rather than a definitive picture of the hazards faced by horses at the Gloucestershire course. The racing authorities themselves must now commission and publish genuinely independent research into risk factors relating not just to Cheltenham but to all 58 British racecourses. And then they must act swiftly upon what is concluded.”

Andrew Tyler
Director
Animal Aid
The Old Chapel
Bradford Street
Tonbridge
TN9 1AW

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