Animal Aid

Cheltenham’s Festival of Death claims another horse victim

Posted 16 March 2007

The Cheltenham Festival claimed another victim on Thursday when Swift Thyne injured his spine after falling in the 4m 1f National Hunt Chase. Three other horses suffered heavy falls in the gruelling event for amateur riders, and the winner collapsed and required oxygen.

Swift Thyne’s death follows that of Little Brick on the first day of the four-day Festival. The French-bred horse broke his shoulder after crashing into a ditch-fence. Last year, 11 horses died from injuries sustained during the Cheltenham meeting.

Says Animal Aid Director Andrew Tyler

Today’s National Hunt Chase had all the ingredients for a catastrophe: amateur riders, novice horses, a crowded field and an exhaustingly long distance to cover. Cheltenham has consistently shown itself to be Britain’s most lethal racecourse for horses, with a death rate twice that of the average National Hunt racecourse. The Festival managers promised major safety improvements for this year’s event. Presenting a race like today’s National Hunt Chase demonstrates that they put dangerous spectacle first and horse welfare nowhere.

Animal Aid staged a demonstration at the racecourse on Tuesday, which included a tombstone with the names of last year's 11 Festival victims.

Notes to editors

  • Around 375 horses are raced to death every year. Animal Aid has produced a report showing that 30% of these deaths occur during or after a race, with the remainder killed due to injuries received in training, or because they are considered to be no longer profitable.
  • Of the approximately 16,000 horses bred by the racing industry each year, only around one third go on to become racers. Many of the 'defective' newborns end up slaughtered for meat, while those who do enter racing suffer a high level of fatal injuries and stress-related illnesses such as gastric ulcers and bleeding lungs. Around 5,000 racers are retired each year, yet very few go on to lead out their lives in a sanctuary or adoptive home. It is clear that the horse racing industry is covering up what happens to its prize assets once they stop making money and are out of the public gaze.
  • Read Animal Aid's report on breeding and slaughter
  • View our powerful 90-second web film on horse racing.

More information

  • For full background and interviews, contact Andrew Tyler on 01732 364546 or Dene Stansall on 01724 278608.
  • ISDN line available for broadcast-quality interviews.
  • Images are available on request.

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