The Grand National is the most valuable jump race in Europe, with a prize fund of £1 million in 2014. Held annually at Aintree Racecourse in Liverpool, England it was first run officially in 1839. The race is a handicap steeplechase over 4 miles 3½ furlongs (7,141 m) with horses jumping 30 fences over two circuits. This is what PETA UK has to say about it – do you agree?
Whatever the results of this year’s Grand National, there’s one thing that you can bet on with confidence – horses will suffer as a result of the unethical spectacle at Aintree.
PETA US has just made headlines with its searing undercover investigation into cruel and illegal industry practices among horse trainers in the US. But here in the UK, horses hardly face better odds. The following are a few home truths about horse racing, which make it clear that the Grand National and races like it are a national disgrace.
1. Horses die on the racetrack all the time. Eight horses have died at Aintree in the past two years. Four died at Cheltenham this year. Their deaths were traumatic and frightening, a stomach-churning mess of tangled limbs, fractured bones and broken spines.
2. Jockeys see horses as “replaceable”. Jockey Ruby Walsh caused a scandal with his comment on the death of Our Conor at Cheltenham: “You can replace a horse“. But his callous remark served only to highlight the widespread attitude within an industry that treats horses as commodities, not as sensitive, sentient animals.
3. Horses are often on drugs. Drugs, both legal and illegal, are as ubiquitous at the racetrack as silly-looking hats are at Ascot. Horses are often drugged to mask their pain and keep them running when they should be resting or receiving treatment. Last year, trainer Mahmood al-Zarooni was banned from racing for eight years after he doped horses with prohibited steroids at one of the world’s leading racing operations.