As the notorious Grand National looms, pressure builds for a new regulator to protect horses

Posted on the 25th March 2019

In the wake of three horse deaths at the recent Cheltenham Festival and ahead of the Grand National meeting which starts on 4 April, national campaigning group, Animal Aid, has renewed its call for a new regulator to take control of race horse welfare.

The current regulator – the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) – had conducted a review of the Cheltenham Festival following the deaths of seven horses in 2018. Yet, despite its recommendations, three horses – Ballyward, Sir Erec and Invitation Only – were killed at the 2019 event.

As the Grand National meeting draws near, Animal Aid is warning the BHA that the public is watching and that it will not tolerate horse deaths in the name of entertainment.

Although no horses have been killed in the main Grand National race since 2013, nine horses have died on the same course while racing in other events during the same period. The latest victim was a horse known as Lilbitluso, who was killed in 2018.

Animal Aid says that it is time for the BHA to step aside and for a new, independent regulator (which is not the promoter of the sport) to take responsibility for race horse welfare. In 2018, 202 horses were killed as a result of racing in Great Britain – the highest number of deaths since 2014. In addition, the number of jockeys breaking the whip regulations has increased for three years in a row. These factors alone, says Animal Aid, mean that the BHA has failed to make any progress with serious issues that affect race horse welfare.

Says Dene Stansall, Horse Racing Consultant for Animal Aid:

The Grand National race itself is almost five times more dangerous than the average steeplechase race but, in addition, the Grand National course overall has continued to be a deathtrap for horses.

‘For too long, horses have been forced to jump these terrible and barbaric fences and it’s time the course itself was demolished. Jumps racing is dangerous enough for horses, but the Grand National course is an outdated relic of the past.

‘The public have seen through this horrifically cruel spectacle though and will not tolerate horses being killed. More than 105,000 people have signed a petition, calling for the BHA to be stripped of its role as welfare regulator because it has failed to protect race horses. The BHA has to go so that horses may live.’

  • Read a full analysis of the dangers of the Grand National and a list of all the horses who have been killed there
  • In October 2018, a parliamentary debate took place on race horse welfare after 105,000+ people signed a government petition demanding that a new welfare regulator should take over from the BHA.
  • Animal Aid’s Horse Racing Awareness Week takes place in the week running up to the Grand National. Hundreds of compassionate people will distribute tens of thousands of leaflets to potential punters calling on them to withhold their betting money from the Grand National.
  • Read more information on the increase in whip abuse
  • Visit Race Horse Deathwatch, our database of on-course Thoroughbred fatalities in Britain.
Campaign against the Grand National: order your leaflets now

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