Horse Racing

Many people regard horse racing as a harmless sport in which the animals are willing participants who thoroughly enjoy the thrill. The truth is that behind the scenes lies a story of immense suffering.

Animal Aid’s main campaigning goals are:  the establishment of a new, independent organisation with sole responsibility for race horse welfare; and a ban on the whip (for any reason other than safety). We continue to press for the racing authorities to publish full details of on-course Thoroughbred deaths (currently running at around 200 a year) and an end to the Grand National.

We want to see an end to all horse racing, because it is an intrinsically cruel and exploitative industry, which fails to take care of horses when they are deemed to no longer be of use. After many years of exposing the truth about a heavily romanticised industry, Animal Aid has succeeded in changing the public perception and media coverage of racing.

How can I help?

Read our background notes on the horse racing industry

Campaign to end horse slaughter

Horses being unloaded for slaughter

Animal Aid has uncovered the stark reality for horses and ponies who are no longer wanted in our society. Between October 2019 and February 2020, we filmed inside a UK abattoir which slaughters horses. The majority of the horses were killed for meat – destined to be sold for human consumption abroad.

Campaign for a new race horse welfare regulator

The British Horseracing Authority (BHA) is currently responsible for race horse welfare – but the number of on-course fatalities is still around 200 a year, and horses continue to be abused with the whip.

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 a body of professionals that would hold the industry to account over the shocking rate of race horse deaths and injuries. The racing industry responded by setting up its own welfare body – but because it has so far failed to make any meaningful improvements, Animal Aid continues to campaign for government intervention.

You can help our campaign to lobby the government to establish a fully-independent welfare body by writing to your MP.

Ban the whip!

Horses are the only animals who may be beaten in public for entertainment. Animal Aid has campaigned for many years to ban the whip from racing in Britain. Many jockeys repeatedly misuse the whip because, even when they are found guilty of misconduct, they still keep their riding fees and may not lose their winnings. Animal Aid is calling for the word ‘encouragement’ to be removed from the rules so that jockeys may use the whip only for extreme situations when safety is at risk.

Write to your MP

Race Horse Death Watch

Animal Aid’s Race Horse Death Watch was launched during the 2007 Cheltenham Festival, after nine horses had been killed racing at the previous years’ event. Its purpose is to expose and record every on-course thoroughbred fatality in Britain. While we record every on-course fatality that comes to our notice, the true figures is considerably higher.

Visit Race Horse Death Watch

Ban the Grand National

The Grand National is a deliberately hazardous race. Since 2000, 33 horses have died on the Grand National course and, over the course of the three-day meeting, 55 horses have been killed in that same period.

  • Animal Aid is calling for this punishing, uncivilised event to be banned. Our annual Horse Racing Awareness Week takes place in the seven days leading up to the Grand National meeting in Aintree. Please follow the link below to find out how you can help raise awareness and join our campaign.
Visit our Ban the Grand National campaign page

Cheltenham Racecourse

Cheltenham Racecourse is the second most dangerous course in Britain. In 2018, ten horses died there, seven of whom were killed during the four-day Cheltenham Festival. Horses have continued to die there since.

Read about the Cheltenham Festival

Key Reports and Briefings

Animal Aid continues to produce revealing and thoroughly researched reports and Briefings on a wide range of topics related to horse racing. They include the abuse of the whip in racing, breeding of race horses and the safety and welfare problems at specific racecourses.

See our key reports

Campaign news