The Grand National: Sporting Event or Animal Abuse?

What is it about horse racing that humans rush to see?  The Grand National Horse Race — considered in the U.K. as the world’s greatest steeplechase — ran this past week.  Tragedy struck not once, not twice nor thrice – but four times!
Three horses were killed during the race; two on Saturday and one on Thursday.  The winning horse, Ballabriggs, almost succumbed to dehydration and exhaustion at the finish line.  And the jockey riding Ballabriggs–Jason Maguire–was handed a five day ban for excessive use of his whip on the winning horse.

Twenty horses have died in this race since 2000.  Add to that a jockey’s fall resulting in a medically-induced coma due to a bleeding brain injury and you have the list of four major events at the 164th Grand National at Aintree Racecourse, U.K.

Peter Toole, the 22-year-old jockey who sustained bleeding on the right side of his brain from a fall during the race was put into a medically-induced coma on Saturday.  He is now reported in critical but stable condition at the hospital.

The four and a half mile race is considered grueling.  It is not simply the distance that tires horse and jockeys, but the 30 jumps over 16 fences each horse must make over two circuits to stay in the race. 

Some of the jumps have a difficult reputation, like Becher’s Brook.  With a 6 foot, nine inch fall on the landing side it has been described by some jockeys as “jumping off the edge of the world.”

Andrew Tyler, Animal Aid Director, was quoted in Sky News.  “The public has been conned into believing that the Grand National is a great sporting spectacle when, in reality, it is straightforward animal abuse that is on a par with Spanish bullfighting,” he said.  “This race should have no future in a civilised country.”

Other animal advocacy groups, including Fight Against Animal Cruelty in Europe and The League Against Cruel Sports are calling for a ban.

Andy Stewart, owner of Ornasis – the horse who broke his neck during a fall at this year’s event – called Ornasis’ demise an “unfortunate” incident.  “We all take chances in our life,” he said. “This was unfortunate. He broke his neck and he died instantly.”  Stewart disagrees with the call for a ban on the Grand National Horse Race, calling it “totally wrong.”

Animal advocates would disagree.  After all, humans have the choice of taking a chance – or not – with their life.  Race horses are offered no such opportunity.  They are forced to participate at the behest of humans.

Why?  With a prize fund of £950,000 in 2011,  ($1,545,749.64 US)
it appears the Grand National is not about national pride in a sporting event.  It’s about the money to be made.

What do you think?  Is the Grand National a sporting event to be proud of or another way for man to make money through the sacrifice and suffering of animals?

Make your opinion known; sign the Care2 petition asking for a ban on the Grand National Horse Race in U.K.

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Photo credit: Flickr: Gordon2208


Sondra Sweeney
Sondra Sweeney5 years ago

Anyway who doubts the insanity of this type of race. Just watch the UTube video.
It is horendous, that anyone could think this is sporting.

jane richmond
jane richmond6 years ago


Helene S.
Helene S6 years ago

Pétition signée

Edmond C.
Edmond C6 years ago


Veronique C.
VĂ©ronique C6 years ago

Pétition signée

Ann G.
Ann G6 years ago

I agree that this is horrible, okay? I signed the petition and I totally think all horse racing should be banned. I don't, however, like the title of this post. The way you present it makes it sound like you're going to present both sides of the matter in an even way and then decide on which is right. I'm not saying that you should do that, I'm just saying that if you don't plan to do that then you shouldn't pretend in the title that you are.

caterina caligiuri

****** SI...SI...SI...!!!...YES..!!!....horses don't like this *cat

Norma V.
Norma Villarreal6 years ago

Money talks....

Jonathan Y.
Jonathan Y6 years ago

Although treatment has improved in the last 50 years, high-impact events like dogsledding and steeplechase do seem immoral for the animals because unlike human athletes, they have no choice.

On the other hand I think other sports like dressage or agility runs are acceptable within guidelines. Animals do enjoy athletic events with their humans, and it can be a relatively safe if properly run.

Some jockeys and owners will say they do bond closely with their horses and take very good care of them, and in many cases it's true. But for every 1 that does there are 10 that don't, they just cycle through animals because of the money. Ditto for greyhound racing or dog sledding. The dark underside of those sports is many animals end up being killed.

Judith Howard
Judith Howard6 years ago

Any event that puts horses in harms way should be banned. For instance, the Calgary stampede in Canada every year features the chuck wagon races and over the course of time many horses have died for the sport. The stampede is such a tradition and so it makes it difficult to see the ending of such sports.

Humans can be such a selfish sorry lot.