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NATIONAL FACING BIGGEST PROTEST
Posted 1 April 2002
Coverage of this year's Horse Racing Awareness Week in the Sunday Telegraph.
Animal Aid, the country's leading animal rights organisation, have planned 40 demonstrations at betting shops throughout Britain this week and the biggest pre-race protest at the world's most famous steeplechase on Saturday.
The 16,000-strong organisation will subsidise mini-buses at £5-a-head to transport as many people as possible to Liverpool. The aim is to convince once-a-year racegoers that the National is "not a harmless flutter" but "betting on horses lives" and, ultimately, earn enough support to have the race banned.
Andrew Tyler, director of Animal Aid, insisted it would be a peaceful demonstration and, if any violence flared, his members would probably be the recipients of it.
"I'm not going to talk in numbers but we are expecting the demonstration to be impressive," Tyler said. "We have had letters of support from European countries and we want to show the public that this race is shaming Britain."
Protesters hindered the start in 1993 before the race was eventually declared null and void after jockeys and horses became entangled in the starting tape. Tyler, however, says there are no plans to disrupt this year's race.
He claims that the Grand National is illegal under the 1911 Protection of Animal Act and Animal Aid have already sought legal advice.
"About 10 months ago we saw a lawyer and were told there is prospect," he said, "but there is more to this than the law. Horses are continuing to die - 23 have during the festival since 1997 and that is a hell of a price to pay for transient entertainment."