Out of hours press enquiries, call 07918 083 774.
COUNTDOWN TO GRAND NATIONAL PROTEST
Posted 19 March 2002
Animal Aid this week starts the big countdown to its Grand National protest - the first major demo in memory to be staged at Aintree by a national animal rights group.
Scores of thousands of leaflets encouraging opponents of the race to attend the peaceful demo have been circulated around the country. On the pressure group's busy website, an electronic chain email has been launched and transport to Aintree is being organised from as far afield as Devon and Edinburgh.
The Grand National protest will mark the climax of Animal Aid's Horse Racing Awareness Week, an annual event first staged in 2000, when five horses died during the three day Aintree meet. A further 17 had perished during the previous three years. Last year there was one fatality, and during the National itself - run in atrociously heavy conditions - 36 out of 40 runners fell. Miraculously, none was killed.
One Foot in the Grave star, Richard Wilson, has this week added his support to the Animal Aid Aintree demo, and messages of encouragement have been received from animal protection groups in Germany, Spain, Belgium, France, Switzerland, Russia and Italy.
Says Lusi Beloglazova, chairman of Russia's Ekaterinburg Society for the Protection of the Rights of Animals:
"In this new millennium, it is shameful to arouse people's low passions at the expense of the suffering and death of innocent animals such as the horse." " The organisers of this punishing equestrian event - the Grand National - strongly undermine the global reputation of England as a country that is humane in its relations with animals."
Last month, the Jockey Club invited Animal Aid to a meeting to discuss horse welfare. The invitation was accepted in a February 20 letter, which declared that "rather than an exchange of pleasantries, we would be seeking a commitment from the Jockey Club to win a pledge from the racing industry that it will provide, from this season onwards, not less than £5 million annually for the care of racehorses in retirement."
Some 4,000 racehorses leave the industry each year. Many endure a downward spiral of neglect. Others are slaughtered for pet food. The industry provides just £200,000 a year for the care of retired animals in a scheme that is less than two years old. This amount is enough merely to 'retrain' just 50 horses. The Animal Aid letter added that "whatever sum is provided, it will be insufficient to tackle the problems arising from massive over-breeding of equines".
In response to Animal Aid's challenge, Jockey Club director of publicity John Maxse has now told the campaign group's director, Andrew Tyler, that the JC has decided that it doesn't want to go ahead with the meeting after all.
Notes to Editors
- More information from Andrew Tyler or Elaine Toland on 01732 364546.
- We have an ISDN line for broadcast-quality radio interviews.