Race Horse Deathwatch: The Shocking Toll

Posted on the 7th March 2017

Ten years ago, Animal Aid launched a new initiative, entitled Race Horse Deathwatch. The aim of the project was to publish information about the deaths of horses who were killed as a result of racing, because the racing industry did not do so. To date, we have recorded the deaths of 1,500 race horses.

In March 2006, eleven horses were killed as a result of racing at the Cheltenham Festival. The horrific circumstances surrounding their deaths were not only shocking, but also highlighted a fundamental problem at the heart of the racing industry: a lack of transparency as to the scale of the carnage that was taking place on Britain’s racecourses.

Animal Aid responded to this veil of secrecy by launching an online database, Race Horse Deathwatch in March 2007, at the start of that year’s Festival meeting.

The aim of Race Horse Deathwatch was simple: to expose the extent of death and suffering of race horses taking place on British racecourses. Animal Aid’s Deathwatch not only names the dead horses but also shames the racecourses where the fatalities occur. The online statistics include trainers and jockeys who are accountable by association.

A decade on, the death toll of horses killed on British racecourses has reached a magnitude far beyond what we feared at the launch of Deathwatch in 2007. A staggering 1,500 horses have lost their lives in an exploitative activity related to gambling and the pursuit of race prize-money, and for the sake of mere entertainment. This number includes only the horses whom Animal Aid has been able to name. There are, however, undoubtedly hundreds more whom we have not been able to name or been able to identify the course on which they died.

For more than ten years, we believe that Cheltenham has epitomised all that is detrimental to the welfare of race horses. It has the worst record of all the 60 British racecourses, with a total of 73 deaths since the start of Horse Deathwatch.

As a result of this, and as another annual Cheltenham Racing Festival approaches, Animal Aid has produced a detailed infographic that illustrates the deaths of last year’s seven equine victims. It shows the cause of their deaths and where on the racecourse they died. It goes beyond that of any racing industry information that is available to the public.

Says, Animal Aid’s Horse Racing Consultant, Dene Stansall:

‘Animal Aid is shocked and disgusted that 1,500 horses have been killed on British racecourses since the start of Race Horse Deathwatch. It has taken Animal Aid great effort to expose this dreadful figure. The British Horseracing Authority (BHA) regularly states that horse welfare is their priority, but in our view, the reality could not be further from the truth. These figures show that the BHA has failed to stem what is a tide of deaths, or even to make detailed information available. They should be stripped of their role, and horse welfare should be placed in the hands of an independent body that would be motivated to stop what is blatant animal abuse.’ 

Notes to Editors

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