Sanctuary not cruelty

Sanctuary Not Cruelty is Animal Aid’s initiative that offers a positive alternative to betting on, or boycotting, the Grand National.

We invite would-be ‘punters’ – or those who take part in Grand National sweepstakes – to send any money they might have bet on the big race to horse sanctuaries instead. They desperately need your help to look after the equine victims of human cruelty, greed and neglect – including ex-race horses.

Brutality and neglect

Horses whipped to make them run faster and sickening falls that cause broken backs and necks – these are probably the most brutal aspects of horseracing cruelty. Nowhere are they more evident than in the annual Aintree Grand National meeting that has caused the deaths of 47 animals since 2000.

Yet death on the racecourse is not confined to the Aintree showpiece. They occur routinely all around the country, with more than 200 horses killed on racecourses every year.

But even these shocking statistics give little indication of the true level of exploitation and animal suffering for which the industry is responsible.

Horses may perish from training injuries, or are killed after being assessed by their owners as no-hopers. Heart attacks and stress-related illnesses, such as gastric ulcers and bleeding lungs, are also endemic among thoroughbreds.

Another huge scandal is the fate of race horses when their careers are over. According to the British Horseracing Association (BHA), more than 40 per cent of those who left racing in 2006 died or met an unknown fate over the next three years. The industry has also admitted that roughly 1,000 unwanted or injured animals connected with racing are sent directly to the slaughterhouse each year.

Unhappy retirement

The Horserace Betting Levy Board (racing’s principal funding body) was established in the early 1960s when gambling laws were eased. It receives around 10% of bookmakers’ profits every year – totalling £69m for the 2015-2016 financial year. A small amount of that money was allocated to help fund the industry’s official retraining scheme for race horses – Retraining of Racehorses. However, under new rules, that funding was essentially diverted to ex-race horse event promotion, leaving the 7,500 horses who leave racing each year in an even more precarious position than before.

In the words of Horse & Hound magazine: ‘Despite all the [racing industry] initiatives and PR, there is a black hole in the records on the fate of ex-race horses’ while, according to former top jockey Richard Dunwoody, ‘only a small proportion’ of retired race horses ‘live to enjoy a happy retirement’.

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