Exposed! Race horse vivisection

Posted on the 16th May 2007

A new report, published this week by Animal Aid, describes a series of painful and often lethal laboratory experiments conducted on race horses, mountain ponies and other equines. Many of the experiments are directly, or indirectly, funded by racing industry bodies, such as the Horserace Betting Levy Board.

Drawing directly on the researchers’ own accounts that have been published in equine veterinary and other scientific journals, A Dead Cert describes horses being deliberately infected with devastating viruses; pregnant animals undergoing abdominal surgery and subsequently aborting their young; other pregnant animals being deliberately underfed; and newborn foals subjected to stress experiments. Most of the ‘procedures’ end with the horses being killed and their tissues examined.

The declared aim of the experiments is to understand why race horses damage their limbs and suffer other illnesses – and to deliver remedies. A principal practitioner of this black art is the Animal Health Trust (See Note 2), a veterinary charity based in Newmarket, the home of horseracing. Professor W R ‘Twink’ Allen, of Cambridge University’s Equine Fertility Unit, was involved in two of the ten experiments featured in A Dead Cert. Allen was reported to have produced the world’s first test-tube foals and is now engaged in horse cloning experiments. His son-in-law is jockey Frankie Dettori.

Says Animal Aid Director, Andrew Tyler:

The horrific experiments described in A Dead Cert are claimed to be for the greater good: a few horses suffer so that many can benefit. That formulation is morally corrupt. The high levels of injury and developmental problems these invasive experiments are supposed to address are the product of racing industry greed and callousness. Commissioning lethal “scientific” experiments on horses is the industry’s attempt to avoid its responsibility to the horses it so readily and systematically exploits.

Notes to Editors:

  1. Over the last seven years, Animal Aid has produced a series of detailed reports exposing the major welfare problems associated with Thoroughbred breeding, racing, training and the disposal of commercially ‘unproductive’ horses.
    Animals are highly in-bred for speed at the expense of skeletal strength and general robustness. Two-thirds of the 16,000 foals produced for racing every year are deemed unsuitable. Some go into other equestrian events but as many as 2,000 are sent for slaughter.There are about 130 on-course fatalities every year. An additional 250 Thoroughbreds die in training annually, or they are killed because they fail to pay their way. The pressure on modern race horses is so immense that, apart from the incidents of broken backs and legs, heart attacks and burst blood vessels, the vast majority suffer from two debilitating stress-related conditions: gastric ulcers and bleeding lungs (exercise-induced pulmonary haemorrhage).
  2. The Animal Health Trust has the strongest of bonds with the racing industry. Much of its research is directly funded by industry bodies; an Honorary Vice President, Sheikh Mohammed, is one of the world’s most powerful race horse breeders and owners, and its recently-appointed chief executive, Peter Webbon, previously held senior positions with the Jockey Club and the Horseracing Regulatory Authority. Indicative of such links is the fact that several thousands pounds from one of the races staged at this year’s Grand National meeting was donated to the AHT.

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