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12th Apr 2022

Animal rights activists call for Grand National to end after two horses die

Daniel Brown

RSPCA Grand National

Two horses died following the Grand National

The deaths of two horses following this year’s Grand National have led to fresh calls for the famous race to come to an end.

A total of 40 horses began the Grand National at the Aintree festival on Saturday, with 50-1 outsider Noble Yeats, ridden by jockey Sam Waley-Cohen, securing a shock victory.

However, only 15 horses finished the race – with two needing to be put down as a result of their injuries. Eclair Surf was put down after suffering a heavy fall, while Discorama also died as a result of its injuries.

Emma Lavelle, who trained Eclair Surf, said: “We were optimistic when he left the track, but during the night he just got more and more wobbly and as he got more distressed it wasn’t the right thing to do to keep going.

“You kind of sit there and think of the ifs and buts and why nots, but you can’t sit and think that.

“It’s a real gutter for everybody – his owners and the team. He was an exciting horse for the future, but what can you say?”

RSPCA Grand National

Across the weekend, another two horses died following other races at this year’s meeting, with Solwara One and Elle Est Belle sadly dying.

The Grand National is heavily scrutinised

The famous race has been subject to criticism for a number of years, with animal rights activists regularly calling for the event to be banned.

According to the League Against Cruel Sports, a total of 59 horses have died at the Aintree Festival since 2000, and 15 have died as a result of running the Grand National in the same time period.

Chris Luffingham, the animal welfare charity’s director of external affairs, said: “This death toll is simply unacceptable and a blight on the horse racing industry.

“We need new safety measures to prioritise horse welfare and to bring about an end to this sickening spectacle.

“We need a new independent, regulatory body which focuses purely on the welfare of the horse and ends the use of the whip and the cruelty and body count associated with the Grand National.”

RSPCA Grand National

RSPCA condemns the deaths

The RSPCA also condemned the deaths of the horses, insisting it was ‘heartbreaking’ while backing calls for more extensive safety measures.

It stated: “The death of any horse is always one too many so it is crucial that steps are taken to reduce the risk of such tragedies occurring.”

The British Horseracing Authority has been urged to identify how deaths could be prevented in the future and help to reduce ‘avoidable risk’.

James Given, director of equine health and welfare, said: “We are all extremely saddened by the fatal injuries at the Grand National festival.

“Following a detailed review in 2011-12 the BHA and Aintree racecourse worked together to introduce a number of significant measures which have helped in the intervening years to reduce the injury rate at the Grand National meeting.

“However, welfare and safety is an ever‑evolving commitment and the BHA works constantly alongside our racecourses to further improve the sport’s safety record and reduce avoidable risk.”

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