Animal Aid

Grand National is more than five times as lethal as other jumps races

Posted 4 April 2014

Animal Aid remains seriously concerned about the horses entered into Saturday’s Grand National at Aintree. While there were no fatalities during the big race at last year’s event, three horses have died in the last five races staged on the Grand National course. Battlefront collapsed and died while racing in the 2013 Foxhunters’ Chase in which several horses fell or were pulled up. On the second day of the meeting, Little Josh broke his shoulder in the Topham Chase. The third victim came last December when Plein Pouvoir was destroyed after a fall in the Sefton Chase.

Animal Aid has calculated that the big race itself is more than five times as lethal to horses as the average steeplechase. It arrives at this figure by looking at the last 1,000 runners dating back to 1987, 23 of whom died. Deaths per 1,000 runners is the formula generally used by racing’s regulator, the British Horseracing Authority, when discussing the risk that befalls race horses. On its website, in relation to jump racing, it declares that the death rate is just over four out of 1,000 runners. The Grand National rate of 23 per thousand is considerably more than five times greater.

What cannot be disputed is that the Grand National course continues to present a major hazard to the life and welfare of horses compelled to run it. Saturday’s big race confronts the 40 entrants with a total of 30 obstacles, several of them uniquely and perversely difficult. Animal Aid reiterates its call for the race to be banned, and it would seem that public support for that view is growing. A 2012 NOP poll commissioned by Animal Aid found that 59 per cent of people who expressed an opinion agreed that the Grand National is cruel. Nine years earlier, a majority of opinion in an equivalent poll narrowly rejected the idea that the race is cruel.

The national campaign group will once again be staging a demo on Saturday outside the Aintree course. It will also be supporting a protest outside the headquarters of race broadcaster Channel 4. The commercial channel first took over from the BBC in screening the Grand National meeting last year.

Says Animal Aid Director, Andrew Tyler

‘Organisers of the Grand National last year threw their hats in the air because no horses died in the big race, but three horses have perished during the last five races staged on that same course. And these fatalities occurred after the much-heralded safety improvements. Animal Aid’s opposition to the race remains as strong as ever and the signs are that a growing number of people are now repelled by this cruel and outdated spectacle.’

Notes to Editors

  • For further information and interviews, contact Dene Stansall or Andrew Tyler on 01732 364546.
  • Visit Race Horse Deathwatch, our online database of horse deaths on British racecourses

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© Copyright Animal Aid 2014