Another Aintree meeting has finished, and yet again the nation was glued to the most famous horse race in the world, The Grand National. No other horse race has the power to get Grandmothers, Uncles, Mums and Dads to enter a betting shop quite like this race. It is estimated that £300 million is bet on the outcome.
So what makes this race so special? Firstly, it is over a mammoth four and a half miles - a real endurance test. Secondly, some of the fences are huge, so represent a real challenge for both horse and rider. Thirdly, winning the race relies on skilful jumping, physical endurance and more importantly, a bucket load of luck. The usual method of predicting a winner based on form is often no better than picking out a name you like or the the colour of the rider's silks. Fourthly, it has a record of producing 'emotive' winners, like Bob Champion recovering from cancer.
Ballabriggs came in first, and the race reports concentrate on the winner. Sadly, barely earning a small paragraph at the bottom of these reports, Ornais and Dooneys Gate fell and were destroyed. The Daily Mirror report did not even name them.
Since the year 2000, 20 horses have died trying to complete the Aintree course. Over the longer period it claims the lives of around 3 horses every year.
This is totally unacceptable in animal welfare terms. We are told that the horses like racing and jumping, and wouldn't do it if they didn't want to. This entirely misses the point, in my opinion.
Race horses, like all animals, are not our objects to use for pleasure or our purposes as we see fit. We have a moral duty to protect all living creatures in our care, to protect them from harm. Would it be acceptable to allow your dog to enter a competition, where 5% of the animals taking part will get killed in the process?
The metaphorical pile of dead horses piling up at Beeches Brook and The Chair surely tells us it time to stop the Grand National in it's current form, and if it can't be changed to radically reduce the risk of to the horses then it should come to an end entirely.
Animal Aid and other groups have been campaigning to this for some time. Please lobby your MP to do the right thing and end this barbarity.