The Grand National: 9 Things They Don’t Tell You About Horse Racing

Posted by on April 2, 2019 | Permalink

Whatever the results of this year’s Grand National, there’s one thing that’s a safe bet – horses will suffer as a result of the unethical spectacle at Aintree. To date, horses have died at the Grand National Festival in 16 out of the last 18 years, yet ITV still broadcasts it.

Here are nine reasons why the Grand National – and all horse racing – is a national disgrace:

1. Horses Die on the Track

©Animal Aid
To date, Horses have died at the Grand National Festival in 16 out of the last 18 years. Last year, 10-year-old Lilbitluso was euthanised after falling at the Canal Turn fence on the first day of the event. Horses who fall, are injured, or die endure a traumatic experience – a stomach-churning mess of tangled limbs, fractured bones, and broken spines.

2. Jockeys See Horses as Replaceablehorse racingJockey Ruby Walsh ignited a scandal with his comment on the death of the horse Our Conor at Cheltenham: “You can replace a horse.” His callous remark exposed a widespread attitude within an industry that treats horses as commodities, not sensitive, sentient beings.

3. Horses May Be Drugged

horse dopingDrugs, both legal and illegal, can be as ubiquitous in racing as ridiculous hats are at Ascot. Horses may be drugged to mask the pain of existing injuries and conditions, keeping them running when they should be resting or receiving treatment. And illegal drugs are sometimes used to try to make horses run faster. For example, Mahmood al-Zarooni – a trainer with one of the world’s biggest horse-racing operations – was banned from racing for eight years for doping horses with prohibited steroids.

4. Horses May Be ‘Retired’ to the Abattoir

When horses used for racing get too old or stop performing well enough to be profitable, they’re often sent to slaughter. Approximately 1,000 horses from the industry are killed in abattoirs in Britain every year and turned into dog food or cheap meat, while others face horrific live-export journeys to Europe.

5. The Grand National Is One of the World’s Deadliest Courses

The infamous Becher’s Brook is known as the world’s most dangerous jump and has racked up many fatalities, yet race officials refuse to remove it. Racing 40 skittish horses at a time makes accidents yet more likely, while the minor so-called “improvements” that have been made to the course in response to public protest are mere token gestures. It’s the danger of the race that draws in crowds and lines bookies’ pockets – and it’s the horses who pay with their lives.

6. Horses Are Often Abused by Jockeys

The 2018 Grand National’s winning jockey, Davy Russell, was previously given a four-day racing ban by the Irish Turf Club after being caught punching a horse in the head. It’s hard to believe that he was still celebrated for his win, but this is just more proof that the industry turns a blind eye to horses’ suffering.

7. They’re Forced to Race While They’re Still Growing

baby horseMaking horses risk their lives on the racecourse is wrong, regardless of their age. But it’s especially heartbreaking to learn that these animals are commonly forced to begin racing when they’re barely more than babies and their bodies are especially prone to damage. It’s hardly surprising, then, that injuries, lameness, and exhaustion are common.

8. They’re Whipped to the Finishing Line

Riders at the Grand National are actually required to carry whips – despite the RSPCA’s verdict that “[u]sing whips can cause pain and suffering to the horses” and often makes them run beyond their natural capability, increasing the likelihood of accidents. Frequently, jockeys violate the already watered-down whipping regulations, which dictate how often and where they hit horses.

9. It’s All About the Money


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The owners of horses made to run in the Grand National often claim that they love these animals. But since they’re willing to subject them to all the abuse and suffering described above, it’s clear that what they truly love is money and glory.

What You Can Do

Fortunately, the public is starting to recognise that the opportunity to wear a fancy hat doesn’t justify the cruelty of horse racing, and many people are now turning their backs on the “sport”.

By broadcasting and promoting the Grand National, ITV is complicit in animal abuse and suffering. Please take a stand for horses today and ask ITV Chair Sir Peter Bazalgette not to air this cruel event: