Animal welfare charities, such as Animal Aid, continue to attack horse racing, pointing out that nearly 400 animals are raced to death every year.
Especially targeted is the annual Grand National at Aintree, Liverpool, a long and dangerous race over jumps for the horses and one that makes considerable sums of money for those who knowingly risk the animals, and the bookies, media, sponsors and racecourses etc that all pocket a cut. Races involving jumps are far more hazardous than flat racing, resulting in one death for every 121 jump racing starts compared with one for every 2278 flat racing starts, or 18 times more. For this reason some racecourses in the UK have discontinued them, firstly Nottingham in 1996, then Windsor in 1998 and Wolverhampton in 2002.
Racehorses are an investment for their owners and only of financial use if they can race, For the horse a leg broken in a fall is nearly always a death sentence, owing to the difficulty of healing without complications. The racing fraternity use the euphemism “euthanising” to describe the destruction of the animal, done so that the owners can claim the insurance money, although it is certainly true that the act puts the animal out of near-certain future misery, the misery that it’s owner has inflicted on it by risking its life racing it.
In a recent and muddled comment piece in the London Evening Standard it was claimed that the Grand National was inspiring because it was “about courage”, that is the courage of the horses over the jumps. Whilst it is generally accepted by most that it is inspirational to watch human beings push themselves to the limit and perhaps risk death, by choice, in the name of sport, entertainment and money, there is something morally murky about forcing animals, which have no choice in the matter of their life or death, through the process.
For many it’s certainly not inspiring.