Animal Aid

Sanctuary not Cruelty for Exploited Race Horses

Posted 26 March 2014

Saturday (March 29) marks the start of Animal Aid’s Horse Racing Awareness Week, an annual campaign during which the public is asked to consider the sombre truth about an exploitative horseracing industry.

On racecourses around the country, a total of around 200 horses die every year – usually from broken backs, legs and necks; or they suffer a heart attack. A large number of other horses at the start of their ‘careers’ are rejected as unsuitable, and others – when they have finished racing – are disposed of by being sent for slaughter. The amount allocated for the roughly 7,500 horses who leave racing every year is pitifully small. The official rehabilitation scheme received just £50,000 from the Horserace Betting Levy Board for race horse care in 2013, out of a total of about £75m that was dispersed throughout the industry.1

Animal Aid supporters will be in high streets across the country during Horse Racing Awareness Week, communicating these hidden truths to a public that is told over and over by industry propagandists that race horses are cherished and cosseted like royalty. Animal Aid’s detailed research over the past 15 years reveals something quite different: that the industry treats thoroughbreds as mere disposable commodities.

Animal Aid publishes details, as best we can, of every on-course death on British racecourses (because the British Horseracing Authority does not). Our online database for this purpose is called Race Horse DeathWatch. We also publish periodic annual reviews. The last one – for 2012 – revealed that ten racecourses saw two deaths in a single day’s racing, while three courses saw three horses die in a single meeting. Based on industry data, we have calculated that around one in every 42 horses who begins the jump race season will be dead by the end of it as a result of an on-course injury.

Horse Racing Awareness Week is an ideal time for people to commit to supporting horses in need rather than bolstering the industry with their betting money or racecourse attendance fees. The Animal Aid initiative that promotes this cause is called Sanctuary Not Cruelty. This year, the named horse charity is Hillside Animal Sanctuary of Frettenham, Norfolk.

Says Animal Aid Director Andrew Tyler:

‘A typical reject of the racing industry is Underwriter. He stopped being profitable and found himself about to be sold to a slaughterhouse. About 1,000 horses from the racing industry are butchered each year in British slaughterhouses. Happily, when it came to Underwriter, the meat man was outbid by representatives of Hillside Horse Sanctuary in Norfolk - and that is where Underwriter is currently to be found, sharing his days with special friend Sweetie and 900 other rescued equines. As we approach the frenetically hyped three-day Grand National meeting, our message to the public is to use the money that would have gone on a bet, to support a hardworking horse sanctuary.’

Underwriter and Sweetie are featured in a short film produced for this year’s Sanctuary Not Cruelty campaign.

Notes to Editors

For further information and interviews, contact Dene Stansall or Andrew Tyler on 01732 364546.

1. The Horserace Betting Levy Board raises money from what is essentially a tax on bookmakers.

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