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ONE IN 31 NATIONAL HUNT HORSES RACED TO DEATH LAST YEAR
Posted 30 March 2001
Animal rights group orchestrate internet boycott of Grand National
The UK's largest animal rights group, Animal Aid, will be using the full power of the internet to undermine support for this year's already-beleaguered Grand National. The initiative marks the start of the group's second Horse Racing Awareness Week (March 31-April 7).
The on-line campaign will take the form of a 'chain email' that will be directed at potential internet punters and participants in office sweepstakes. The move coincides with the release of a shocking new Animal Aid report, called Running for their Lives. The report, backed by a detailed background dossier on the industry, reveals that one in every 31 horses who competed last year in National Hunt racing failed to survive the season. They died - or were killed - on or off the course.
Because racing's governing bodies refuse to disclose key data on equine deaths and injuries - even to racing correspondents - Animal Aid conducted its own investigation based on a meticulous study of form-books and media articles. The resulting report reveals that no fewer than 165 of the 247 equine victims were inexperienced animals, or those rated as lacking ability.
Ninety-one of the total fatalities occurred on an racecourse. The other 156 died or were killed prematurely off-course, as a result of injury incurred during a race, because they lacked ability, or for some other, undisclosed reason.
Running for their Lives is published as the Jockey Club (JC) gears up for a PR offensive intended to sweeten public opinion in advance of the three-day Grand National meet - which last year killed five horses.
The JC is claiming that, despite a substantial increase in the number of 'runners', annual fatalities are decreasing. But these statistics conceal more than they reveal. (See below for an analysis).
Animal Aid's 'chain' e-mail is entitled '10 Reasons to Boycott the Grand National'. Thousands of initial recipients will each be urged to forward the email to at least five other people.
The pressure group is also co-ordinating protests and leafleting outside betting shops around the UK during the run-up to the Grand National. The leaflets bear a shocking image of a galloping horse with a flapping broken foreleg and the slogan 'Cruelty - You Can Bet On It'. The leaflet will also be displayed on notice boards in council offices, community centres, veterinary surgeries, colleges and similar locations.
Said Yvonne Taylor, Animal Aid's campaigns co-ordinator:
"Our new report puts figures to the brutal reality of National Hunt racing. Over the next seven days computer users throughout the UK and further afield will learn the truth about the Grand National - and 100,000 leaflets will be distributed by activists up and down the country in a concerted effort to undercut support for this ugly spectacle."
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Running for their Lives will be presented - along with a wreath in memory of the 247 horse victims - to The Jockey Club, at their 42 Portman Square, London W1 headquarters, at 11am on Thursday March 29. On hand for the ceremony will be sleazy bookie, Dishonest Joe. See our Horse Racing Awareness Week pages for his picture!
Notes to Editors
- For more information on Horse Racing Awareness Week contact Yvonne Taylor or Andrew Tyler on 01732 364546.
- To see a media preview of the new report, the leaflet, full background notes, and an image of sleazy bookie, Dishonest Joe, visit the Animal Aid website.
- We have an ISDN line for Broadcast-quality interviews.
Note on the Jockey Club data
The 78,101 'runners' the Jockey Club refers to do not represent the number of horses involved in racing last season - as many people will assume - rather, the total number of times a much smaller number of horses ran. And its fatality statistics relate only to animals who died during, or immediately after, a race. The JC provides no information on animals injured during a race but killed off the course, nor on training deaths, nor on the large number disposed of because it was considered commercially inexpedient to keep them.
For so long as the JC refuses to publish anything other than the barest statistics, there is no way of testing whether this fatality 'decline' signals a genuine welfare gain or if it arises out of factors such as softer ground conditions caused by wetter weather; or from a policy or trend of deferring the destruction process so that fewer horses are registered as having died on-course.