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Animal Aid Protests at The 'Festival of Death'
Posted 5 March 2009
Date: 10 March 2009
Location: The Main Entrance, Cheltenham Racecourse
Animal Aid will be holding a sombre, funereal protest at the Cheltenham Festival in memory of the many horses who have died at the course. The 2009 Festival also marks the second anniversary of the launch of Animal Aid’s Race Horse Deathwatch – an online database that monitors all Thoroughbred deaths on Britain’s racecourses. Deathwatch shows that 14 horses have died at the course in the past three years.
Cheltenham ranks amongst the most hazardous of Britain's 60 racecourses. In 2006, 11 horses perished at the Festival, two more died in 2007 and another in 2008. There are several reasons for the high mortality rate. Among them is Cheltenham's notorious downhill fences and hurdles that, over many decades, have killed seasoned and novice horses alike.
Nationally, around 420 horses are raced to death every year. Some 38 per cent of these fatalities occur during, or immediately after, a race. The other victims die as a result of training injuries or are killed after being assessed by their owners as no-hopers. Some of these animals will end their days in a UK abattoir – their meat destined for human consumption on the continent.
Commenting recently on the Cheltenham Festival, The Guardian’s racing correspondent Greg Wood stated: ‘Horses will still die at the Festival. Nothing will ever change that.’ (Guardian, 24 February 2009) Animal Aid believes that this is unacceptable and will be calling on the public to withhold their betting money and attendance fees.
Says Animal Aid Horse Racing Consultant, Dene Stansall:
‘Animal Aid will be at the Cheltenham Festival to let punters know that their attendance and betting money is funding an industry responsible for the on-course and in-training deaths of some 420 horses nationally every year. Additionally, many horses who are of little financial worth will be sold on repeatedly and may even be sent to a British abattoir, so that their meat can be sold abroad. Cheltenham has witnessed 14 horses killed at its course during the last three years but appears content with this casualty rate. Cheltenham is one of the worst courses in the country, with an appalling record for killing horses. If people care about animal welfare, they need to withhold their money from this so-called “sport”.’
Notes to editors:
- Of the approximately 18,000 horses bred each year by the closely related British and Irish racing industries, only around 40% go on to race. Many of the ‘low quality’ newborns are destroyed 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 6,000 race horses leave British racing each year, yet very few go on to a sanctuary or adoptive home.
- View our powerful 90-second web film
- View our undercover footage of horse slaughter
- Read Animal Aid’s analysis of the figures from the first year of Race Horse Deathwatch
- Read Animal Aid’s report on breeding and slaughter
- For full background and interviews, contact Andrew Tyler on 01732 364546
- ISDN line available for broadcast-quality interviews.
- Images are available on request.