The Cheltenham Festival

Posted on the 9th March 2021

The notorious Cheltenham Festival will be taking place this year from Tuesday 16 through to Friday 19 March. Horses have died at the Festival every year since 2000, except in 2001 when the Festival was cancelled due to Foot and Mouth disease. A total of 68 horses have lost their lives at the Festival since 2000. All of Gordon Elliott’s horses who had an entry will be eligible to race at the Festival.

At the root of the problem is racing’s regulator, the British Horseracing Authority (BHA). It is responsible for race horse welfare but has failed to curb the number of fatalities in racing. In 2018, the BHA announced that it would undertake a review of the deaths at the Festival that year. It took the BHA nine months to produce the report, and many of the recommendations fell well short of what is needed, and, above all, failed to address key issues such as the ‘win at all costs’ mentality of many jockeys at the event, the number of demanding obstacles to be jumped and the gruelling length of some races.

In 2018, Animal Aid secured a Parliamentary debate on race horse welfare. The debate came about as the result of more than 105,000 compassionate people signing a government petition calling for the British Horseracing Authority to be stripped of its responsibility for race horse welfare, and instead for that vital job to be awarded to an independent body of professionals who would hold the industry to account over the shocking rate of race horse deaths and injuries. We continue to campaign for this goal.

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