Animal advocates were already protesting this year’s Grand National taking place at Aintree in Liverpool when the first horse died.
It’s not even a question of whether or not horses will be harmed at the Grand National, but one of when and who will suffer and die that makes it so indefensible and twisted that so many people continue to be entertained by an event where horses are intentionally put into a situation that is designed to be inherently dangerous.
Of the nine horses that have died in the past ten Grand Nationals, four have been in the last two years. Two horses, Synchronised and According to Pete, lost their lives last year following the deaths of Dooney’s Gate and Ornais in 2011.
The British Horseracing Authority has continued to claim equine welfare is a priority and that safety improvements have been made, but horses continue to suffer severe injuries, ranging from broken legs, necks and backs to heart attacks, and die needlessly and routinely.
With or without improvements, it’s hard to think about putting 40 horses on a four-and-a-half-mile course with a total of 30 demanding jumps as anything other than a death-trap. In the past ten years, only 37 per cent of the horses that have started the race have actually finished it. One fence in particular, Becher’s Brook, has consistently drawn the ire of equine welfare advocates for its position on the course, the angle it has to be taken at and the dangerous drop on the landing side.
So far this year an additional two horses have been killed before Saturday’s main event.
This week, Battlefront collapsed and died of a suspected heart attack after being pulled up by jockey Katie Walsh, who just days before defended the race without apology saying that “These horses are so well looked after. Better than some children, to be honest with you.” She added that she hoped there were no accidents, “but these things happen, and they are horses at the end of the day.”
A second horse, Little Josh, was also destroyed this year after breaking a shoulder in yesterday’s race, while five more horses fell but were not seriously injured.
Fortunately, not everyone agrees with Walsh’s sentiment that they’re, like, just horses …so whatever.
“Little Josh was a popular horse with race-goers and if they are not sickened by his death then it demonstrates there is very little heart in racing. The course operators and racing’s regulator now face a growing crisis of confidence as the public starts to fully acknowledge the brutal and lethal nature of the three-day Grand National meeting,” said Animal Aid’s Director, Andrew Tyler.
A poll conducted on behalf of Animal Aid last year showed that the majority of respondents who had a clear opinion believed the Grand National is cruel. Unfortunately, this year’s races were still expected to draw 150,000 spectators.
Some are now taking the stance that supporting improvements is the way to go because they don’t believe the Grand National will ever actually be banned, while others still want to see it stopped entirely. Hopefully attitudes will continue to change and this year’s deaths will spur enough outrage to seal the Grand National’s fate.
Please sign the petition asking the British Horseracing Authority to end this awful event once and for all.
Photo credit: Thinkstock