The (Not So) Grand National

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Returning volunteer Bella Butler discusses different facts and views from the Grand National and it’s aftershocks.

 

Tiger Roll, ridden by Davy Russell, won for the second successive year at the Grand National in Aintree, putting them in the record books by equalising Red Rum’s back-to-back wins from 1974. Despite this momentous achievement, the race was also struck with sorrow after Up For Review became the first horse to be killed since 2012 in the Grand National. He was one of three fatalities across the last two days of the event, causing people to question the ethics of horse racing.

Up For Review’s death was viewed by around 70,000 spectators and millions more on television. After falling at the first fence, the horse landed on his neck and appeared to violently convulse in pain.

Following this horrific display, people have vowed never to bet on horse racing again, with some planning to boycott the event in forthcoming years. The course was criticised for its “barbarity”, but horseracing chiefs will be reviewing the safety of the 30-jump course.

The commentary stated, “This is a sport and a race that has a trap door to despair; it does break hearts, but it also makes legends”, but Up For Review’s fatality has caused many to question whether death is a worthy price for victory.

The hashtag #youbettheydie became popular on Twitter, and a petition by PETA UK was set up to urge ITV to stop broadcasting the Grand National.

The history of the Grand National shows that horses have died at 16 of the past 18 years and that 84 horses have died at the event since 1839. The sport has been criticised for its “needless cruelty” to horses, with some collapsing from exhaustion, while others abandon the race all together, too tired to carry on. The jumps have been described as “lethal”, with Becher’s Brook being nicknamed the “killer fence”. With multiple horses approaching these fences at top speed, it is clear to see how, in the chaos, accidents easily happen and consequently cause deaths.

“The fact that the race has 40 runners is far too many,” Dene Stansall, a racing consultant for Animal Aid, said, naming Up For Review’s death as the worst he had ever seen at the Grand National.

People have further argued that forcing the horses to race in the first place is cruel as putting their bodies through such extreme intensity in training is taxing in itself.

However, others have defended horseracing, stating that the horses are “treated like royalty”. The BHA has also said that when evidence arises to improve the safety of the sport further, measures will be put in place. Last year, a major review took place and changes have been put in, such as increasing pre-examinations.

A spokesman added that “Aintree racecourse and the BHA worked together in the run-up to this year’s meeting to ensure preparations to keep the event safe were the best ever. However, there’s a level of risk involved in any activity in which horses take part. We work hard as a sport to keep those risks to a minimum and remove avoidable risk”.

Despite this, the overriding truth is that 200 horses die on racecourses every year according to BHA figures.

 

Featured image by: Omeiza Haruna

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About Author

Label Editor for 2018-19; Senate Member of the Year 2018-19; a dog person.

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