Animal Aid

WHIPPING SCANDAL EXPOSED - Horse Racing Awareness Week 2004

Posted 1 March 2004
Horse with broken leg

The following article by Andrew Tyler is reproduced from the Spring 2004 issue of Outrage - Animal Aid's quarterly magazine which is sent to all Animal Aid members. To find out more about joining Animal Aid click here.

Animal Aid's Horse Racing Awareness Week (HRAW) will once again deliver a powerful message to those who believe that, by betting on races, they are indulging in a 'harmless flutter' rather than supporting an industry that produces, consumes and disposes of thousands of horses annually with ruthless (in)efficiency.

This year's main HRAW initiative is a major analysis of the use of the whip. We have studied and recorded hundreds of races. The preliminary results already point to numerous examples of grim, uncontrolled whipping - not just of the hindquarters but also of the neck and elsewhere on the body. Read A Hiding to Nothing online here.

Jockey Club rules allow an animal to be beaten a maximum of seven times towards the end of a race, but our evidence shows that enforcement of whipping rules is anything but vigorous. One stark example - which did attract media attention - involved champion jump jockey Tony McCoy, who repeatedly whipped a horse before the race had even begun.

As well as what we anticipate will be the high-profile release of our findings, Animal Aid will be co-ordinating the leafleting of betting shops and racecourses around the country. Please help by taking part in a local event. We'll give you all the support that you need.

National disgrace

Horse Racing Awareness Week 'attaches' itself to the Grand National because it is a deliberately punishing race that routinely produces fatalities. Since 1997, 29 horses have perished at the three-day Aintree meet - eight during the National itself.

Last year, Goguenard was killed in the main race, which also saw favourite Iris Bleu carried off in a horse ambulance and Youlneverwalkalone injured. Just 14 of the 40 starters finished. Goguenard fell several feet from a fence onto his back and a jockey then fell onto the horse's stomach. Coolnagorna was the other 2003 victim. The six-year-old was destroyed after falling and breaking a hind leg.

On-course fatalities and whipping have traditionally received precious little media attention - although HRAW is beginning to change that state of affairs. We are also turning a spotlight on the behind-the-scenes exploitation and carnage.

To mark last year's protests, Animal Aid published a major report called Riding For A Fall: the genetic time bomb at the heart of racing. This revealed that modern race horses are subjected to such extreme patterns of in-breeding, training and competition that they are suffering more broken bones, viral disease and devastating conditions such as bleeding lungs (present in 82% of three year olds racing on the flat) and gastric ulcers (in 93% of all horses in training).

While three times more foals are produced every year than 45 years ago, only one-third are now rated sufficiently healthy and robust to make the grade. The rest are sold as 'pets', used for minor equestrian events, fed to hunting hounds, or killed for pet food. Nor is there a proper retirement for thousands of horses who every year finish their careers. Again, many are simply discarded.

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