By continuing to browse our site, you are consenting to the use of cookies. Click here for more information on the cookies we use. HIDE

We work to expose and end the cruelty inflicted on animals in the name of sport

Time for National action

Posted 14/04/2011 by League Campaigner

Last Saturday’s Grand National was one of those rare watershed moments. The deaths of racehorses Ornais and Dooney’s Gate, as well as the serious injuries sustained by jockey Peter Toole, sent shockwaves around the country. The response from the general public and in the media has been quite simply phenomenal.

All the major papers, including The Guardian, The Daily Mail, , ,  and The Times have ran with stories questioning whether the race should be allowed to continue in its current form, and the League’s phones have hardly stopped ringing all week with journalists and members of the public requesting interviews, information and advice.  

The case for reform of the Grand National, and of steeple chasing more generally, is becoming increasingly unanswerable. The statistics speak for themselves: out of every one thousand horses which start a steeple chase, six will die. This is the equivalent of someone who drives a car every day having a fatal car crash every six months.

So what does the future hold for the Grand National? The League is calling for swift and decisive action: the height of the jumps must be lowered, the length of the race must be shortened and the number of participants must be decreased.

The groundswell of opposition to this race is becoming bigger with each passing year. Indeed, opinion polling shows that 65% of people in the UK think the course should be changed to lessen the risks. When punters and sponsors begin to vote with their wallets, race organisers will have no choice but to reform this most deadly of races. 

Add your comment



  • Kay Dawson

    14/04/2011 02:39

    Needs to be banned.

  • Daphne Kelman

    14/04/2011 03:02

    Ban it

  • Nicola Watson

    15/04/2011 01:09

    I have mixed feelings towards this race. I do think there should definatly be less participents involved in this race as it is just far to crowded. The length should possibly also be reduced but as for the height of the fences I think if they get lowered again it will just speed up the race and it is the speed that causes most accidents. Anyone who is 100% against this race should be against racing in general as horses don't only die in this race but in many flat races too. Atleast at the Grand National there is a vet at every fence ready to put the poor horses out of pain whereas in some flat races the horses have to wait for a vet to get too them. I do not watch horse racing as I don't really like it I think whips are unnecessary, if a horse wanted to run you wouldn't need a whip to make it but I think if racing was banned then that would be an end to thoroughbreds as we know them. They're amazing animals and I think some things do need to be changed in horse racing and the Grand National but I think they need to look at it from every angle before lowering fences and speeding it up.

  • Jan Richards

    15/04/2011 01:13

    This so called sport is just to make as much money as possible and has nothing to do with the welfare of the horses or even the jockeys. The jockeys however, have a choice to be there - the horses do not. Stop the needless slaughter of these beautiful animals

  • Natasha chetwood

    15/04/2011 01:18

    It's very cruel please ban it.

  • Jen

    15/04/2011 01:28

    Forget reform. The idiots who make this 'sport' into the million pound industry it is should just STOP betting on horses. Leave these beautiful, gentle animals alone. They are not here to be raced and injured to death. They are not here to make you money, nor here for your pathetic idea of entertainment. Why are horses expendable?? Get a life and leave these beautiful creatures to their own.

  • Mo

    15/04/2011 01:36

    It is a barbaric race, there are too many high jumps and too many horses in the race, it there is an accident there is no place for the horses jumping to go. It should be banned, we are supposed to be a country of animal lovers. I never watch the race as it is too upsetting, The jockeys have a choice but the horses don't and they shouldn't be allowed to whip them so.

  • Liz Dargan

    15/04/2011 01:43

    I have always been opposed to horse racing and the Grand National makes me feel physically sick. I dread it every year. It makes me particularly angry when ill informed people declare that horses 'love' it. They don't. They run because they are herd and prey animals and are responding to the fight or flight instinct i.e. their first response to danger is to flee. The whole industry revolves around money and to the owners the animal is just an expendable commodity.

  • John Smale

    15/04/2011 01:59

    I have always been against this kind of sport, now that a human being has been hurt perhaps they'll take it more seriously. A horse has no choice, it runs in the direction that it's beaten!

  • Christine Wisher

    15/04/2011 02:27

    There will always be cruelty where animals and gambling are combined. Gambling on any animal should be banned. It is the exploitation of animals for man's greed.

  • Bill Bimson

    15/04/2011 02:59

    This might sound harsh, but if each jockey whose horse died in the race was exectuted, would any jockeys then get on horses in subsequent races. The answer is no. This shows that jockeys and trainers and owners are treating their horses like disposable commoditities. This doesn't belong in the 21st Century.

  • Mollie

    15/04/2011 03:03

    There is little to be said in favour of any sport that risks the life of any animal for monetary gain...and that after all, is all it's really all about.. Yes it's exciting for punters to watch. of course it is, they have money to gain or lose...And how we have the cheek to criticise bullfighting when this happens in our country.. The bull at least has a chance to gore his tormenter to death...though that should be banned too.. Any sport that involves cruelty harms not only the animal but the human being who perpetrates the torture...He or she is short on humanity...

  • Maureen Crowley

    15/04/2011 03:21

    In my mind there is no question about reform - this barbaric blood sport, because that's all it is, must stop. Why do we purport to be a nation of animal lovers when we continue to glamourise this hellish event - could it be because of the revenue it raises for owners, bookies and punters alike. It's been said previously, but it is akin to bull fighting and every single person who takes part in this by entering a sweepstake or placing a bet has blood on their hands. Lets take some real action now and stop faffing about!!

  • Rosie Collins

    15/04/2011 03:30

    My husband and I think it is barbaric how the Grand National is allowed to continue it is so cruel and the horses have no say in what happens to them.

  • MLloyd

    15/04/2011 03:43

    This race should be banned and I suggest that those who support it should run the race themselves.The jockey has the choice of whether he wants to ride,the horse doesn't. How an owner can put a beautiful creature like a horse into such a race is beyond me-----this race should and must be stopped.

  • Patricia Wiltshire

    15/04/2011 03:46

    It's about time we had a more responsible attitude towards racing and other leisure pursuits using animals. It's about time the money-grabbing mob were challenged and this kind of event was banned. While we are at it, the abuse of race horses generally is appalling. I understand they are just sold as dog meat if they don't perform and what an unnatural life for the animal anyway. It is barbaric to put a year-old animal through such stress too. Their bodies are being horribly abused.

  • Karen McMaster

    15/04/2011 03:49

    What can we do to make this the last year ever for this embarassing 'National' spectacle. Enough horses have now died in fear and pain. Personally I'd simply ban it but realisticly there is too much money involved to allow this to happen. What could happen is that the race is made safer, fewer participants smaller jumps shorter distance, perhaps other things, I'm no expert. Does the audience, financial take and betting really rely on the prospect of frightened horses dieing in pain to ensure maximum financial gain? Surely the Nation isn't as sick as this?

  • Ian Parker

    15/04/2011 03:59

    Sadly it will take more serious accidents of Jockeys to get anything like a ban... it seems to the horse world that these beautiful creatures are expendable - otherwise they would not race them for fear of loosing them... It's about the money not the horse - dont let people tell us anything else!

  • Lee C

    15/04/2011 04:01

    @Nicola: Lowering the fences wouldn't speed the race up, it would simply alter the height the horses have to fall from. Lower fences would allow the horses to maintain a horizontal momentum, rather than have that exchanged to a vertical momentum. If you jump over something low, it has far less impact and strain on your legs, than dropping from 6 foot. Your legs are less likely to buckle as less wieght it being directed downwards. To be honest, showjumping is as bad, because they force horses to jump higher, and with similar consequences. @the topic in question: We cannot keep forcing animals to risk their life for our enjoyment... unless you can honestly say that watching animals risk their life, is enjoyable. If we jump beyond our limits, it hurts, and we stop. The only way people seem to accept a horse has jumped beyond its limits, is when it falls and dies. That's unacceptable in a civilised society... if that is what we really are of course.

  • Brenda Jones

    15/04/2011 04:17


  • kath magson

    15/04/2011 04:19

    BAN IT!!!!!!

  • Helen Cass

    15/04/2011 05:32

    I couldnt bring myself to watch as nearly every year something happens, its bad enough watching the jockeys with the crops never mind the height of the fences I think it should have better measures in place, no crops, no high fences and a shorter distance to run.

  • Karyn

    15/04/2011 06:17

    It is barbaric, why does the jockey need the whip if the horse is 'lovin' it? It should be banned, gambling is just a human pleasure and encourages greed ,therefore it should not include the use of animals.

  • Hazel Clayton

    15/04/2011 07:25

    The dangerous jumps should be changed to safe level. It is really a terrible sport and it is all about money, not for the love of horses, this is so wrong.

  • Helen Moylett

    15/04/2011 08:55

    BAN this race & all races, whatever the animal involved. We are supposed to be a nation of animal lovers, I see no love in these peoples eyes, just £ signs. Disgraceful, disgusting, barbaric.

  • Christine

    15/04/2011 11:07

    I think the momentum of public outrage has to be maintained. If not, the events of last Saturday will soon be forgotten and horses will continue to die until this 'sport' is banned forever. I hope the League can keep up the pressure - good luck.

  • Jill Parker

    15/04/2011 11:21

    This has been going on for years and nothing has ever been done about it. Why? Because it is all about money and nobody in authority really cares about the welfare of the horses. Why doesn't the RSPCA stand up and deplore the cruelty? Isn't that what they are supposed to be about or do they worry about losing the 'R' part of their name?

  • Peter Collins

    15/04/2011 12:37

    I have always felt that until a jockey gets badly hurt, no one will ever improve things for horses. So perhaps now this can lend more weight to the argument that at the very least,some of the more dangerous fences should be toned down.

  • Irene Reece

    15/04/2011 12:55

    How can we in the UK campaign against bull fighting and other animal cruelty abroad when we allow this barbaric 'sport' to take place in our own country???

  • Fiona Quint

    15/04/2011 12:55

    The sport of kings? The sport of utter barbaric, brutal savages is my personal opinion. It should be banned. The authorities that claim it is safe should be brought to task and made to answer for the deaths and injuries to the horses.

  • Emmy Beazley

    15/04/2011 12:59

    I was absolutely horrified to see this happen. I'm not sure how I've gone about my life not knowing about this, but my eyes are well and truly open now. Everyone started talking about the race mid-week and by Saturday, Leeds filled with National-Mania. Me and the girls put it on to see what all the hype was about. To our horror and extreme distress, we watched two horses fall to their deaths right before our eyes. This must stop. We really should know better than to allow these animals to suffer in this way, for the sake of entertainment and money. What can I do to help stop this happening again?

  • judy Cook

    16/04/2011 01:09

    The Grand National is a barbaric cruel race -------- all jumping races Must be banned.

  • Maria

    16/04/2011 02:14

    BAN IT!!!!!

  • Julie

    16/04/2011 05:05

    The racing industry breeds too many TBs. Those that don't make the grade are shot or gifted if they can't be sold on. I know, I see enough of them round here. Horsey ladies like to own TBs but they are finicky horses to own (we have a gypsy cob, looked down on by the horsey lot, but a comparatively easy horse to own). Tbs go lame as soon as look at them, collapse if left out in bad weather and need all manner of extra feed supplements. In hard times there are going to be many more ex-racehorses shot. It's just the same as the greyhound racing racket. As for the excessive use of the whip; it's true, a horse that wants to work for you only needs a gentle tap on the bum to be encouraged. All sports based on gambling are rackets. time to impose some limits on the animal abuse and the gambling.

  • Rowan

    16/04/2011 06:42

    Im unfortunate to be related to an acclaimed jockey. I have been shot down in arguments by him about this for years - Ive questioned the internally damaged organs of the horses, the externally wrecked limbs and the humiliation of being ridden to their deaths. I am not a supporter of the Royal Family either as they promote this 'royal sport of kings' - isnt it time living beings took precedence over greed and 'sport' arranged by the greedy in our society? Its barbaric, antiquated and damaging to the lives of animals and to the psyche of society. ps. I formally disown myself from that jockey - Christmas cards are REALLY out from now on!

  • Josie

    16/04/2011 09:32

    I have been saddened by his event for many years. It seems very difficult for some people to get it when it comes to animals. However because a man has now been injured so attention is given, perhaps those animals that suffered will not have suffered in vain. Set the example & STOP gambling.

  • lizzie

    16/04/2011 10:31

    ban it

  • julia

    16/04/2011 11:09

    I agree that it takes a human injury to get the debate going about society's use and abuse of animals in sport. I really hope that all people who feel dismayed by what has happened at the Grand National will broaden their thinking to other horse sports AND Greyhound racing- we do have a rescue greyhound. Dogs and horses would choose a peaceful life without fear and pain, just as the majority of people would.

  • Yolande

    17/04/2011 03:32

    It's barbaric that we still have this race. People always point out that jockeys get hurt as well as the horses, but the horses have no choice about competing, whereas the jockeys do. It should have been banned many years ago.

  • Janet

    17/04/2011 06:32

    I whole heartedly agree with most of what everybody here has already said in fact I would like to see the end of all animal sports as they all leave a blood stained trail. In show jumping and cross county eventing (as someone has already said) horses suffer some horrendous injuries and face death every time they go round a course and not only this those that become too old or don’t make the grade are not even given the dignity of retirement or looked after, no they are usually destroyed as money can be got for their flesh. The same scenario is reflected in dog racing. Motor racing drivers, jockeys etc know the risks and do the job to get paid, animas have no choice in the matter and are abused because they can’t speak in a language that money grabbing humans can understand.

  • Marc Lynton Latham

    17/04/2011 10:07

    I'm usually totally on message with LACS, but on this one I disagree with a ban, although I support greater legislation. I think the race should continue, but with more safety restrictions imposed, such as a shorter race with less runners and smaller fences. I actually work in a betting shop, while being totally for animal welfare and against hunting and other blood sports. I'm not writing this on their behalf, these are just my personal feelings. I am not generally interested in animal racing, and the Grand National is about the only race that I make a point of watching, as I grew up with it and it gets everybody's interest. While I think any animal dying young is a tragedy, and horses don't volunteer to race, they obviously enjoy it, and get treated like royalty while alive. The jockey that was injured did volunteer, and it's the same for people who race cars and bikes or box. I think a lot of horses would also volunteer to live and race in that way if given the chance as humans are. Compare that to many horses' lives, where they are bred for food or lives of toil and drudgery, and I think there are more important animal welfare issues than banning horse racing, although as I said before, racing should have as many safety considerations as possible.

  • Stephanie Atkin

    18/04/2011 09:41

    It is said that a sport is when both sides know they are in the game......The Grand National and other animal spectacles cannot therefore be classed as sport at all. It is a terrible thing when people who say that they like animals throw all moral judgement out the window and lay bets on this dreadful race, just because of the hype. I spoke to someone the other day, who said I don't feel bad because there is nothing I can do about it my answer to that is, we are all responsible for what we allow to happen, if we do nothing and say nothing. At the very least the Grand National should be regulated by people who do not stand to profit, the race should be made safer and shorter and owners for racing horses and racing dogs alike, should be held more accountable for the animals welfare after retirement or injury. When will we stop allowing our animals to become a throwaway commodity.......the first and relatively painless step, surely is to boycott this particular race.

  • Cindi Scholefield

    19/04/2011 01:43

    One more instance of man using our beautiful animals for his own gain and greed. ALL racing involving animals should be banned. Let the men who want to bet, get out and run themselves into the ground.

  • Heather Carlyle

    19/04/2011 01:48

    I agree with everything that Stephanie Atkin has written. Enough is enough. Please prevent the death of any more animals and stop the Grand National!

  • steve

    19/04/2011 02:36

    The industry as a whole is corrupt beyond measure and as has been pointed out above, is designed purely to make money. The industry is aware of the poor perception the public has of it, mostly from the perspective of animal welfare, and has set up a number of registerd charity based organisations across the country to allegedly rehome retired race horses. Have a look at Moorcroft racehorse welfare centre online and it looks fantastic. The reality is that the horses there seldom get rehomed and are ultimately put to sleep to make space for new animals. Horse passports are modified ( an illegal practice ) and the animals spend huge amounts of time on bute , an equine painkiller, to make them more docile. I have first hand experience of this disgusting practice. Whilst racing, the animals are generally well looked after ( they are an investment, after all, for the owner ) but practices such as pin firing and bar firing ( designed to create scar tissue on tendons to increase the strength of them, to lessen the potential for injury ) are common. The League would do well to expose that side of racing, the sham of aftercare. My thoughts? making the races less arduous for the animals would obviously help, but ultimately human greed will prevail. Makes me sick.

  • Tracey

    19/04/2011 03:17

    Yes we've had the same public outcry in Australia about this issue. I've signed the online petition at Animals Australia. There needs to be action taken to protect these horses who are at high risk of injury or death in this sport.

  • hazel

    19/04/2011 07:00

    Please ban this barbaric sport.

  • Lisbeth Mønsted Larsen

    19/04/2011 07:21

    The Grand National should be made safe for the horses as well as the jockeys. The word bloodsport comes to mind. not just horse racing but greyhound racing as well seven greyhounds die pr week at those tracks. the long straights and too sharp bends run at high speed is a killer this should have been stopped a long time ago. Instead we hear of abandoned and abused greyhounds found running in the streets or found shot somewhere with their ears hacked of. This is barbaric and it must be stopped. The overbreeding and senseless killing of both horses and greyhounds must end. Please consider both horses and greyhounds. That has not realy been done before but it should be done now.Sincerly Lisbeth Mønsted Larsen Greyhound Action Denmark.

  • Rosie

    19/04/2011 08:10

    I fail to comprehend how this is allowed to happen year after year. It's time we prioritized animal welfare and not just personnal gain and so called entertainment. I'm extremely surprised that this race is allowed to take place and that so many people continue to support it without seemingly any regard for the horses. I dread this race every year knowing what's going to happen and will continue to boycott it. I have very little sympathy for the jockey, he knew the risks and chose to take part, the horses didn't. Very sad over Ornais and Dooney's Gate.

  • John

    19/04/2011 08:37

    Every single 'sport' involving animals should be banned - including displays of caricatures of original animals, such as Crufts. I despair of the Human Race. It is totally destructive and has no place on such a beautiful planet; or anywhere else in the Universe.

  • ann gibson

    19/04/2011 08:51

    The RSPCA and other groups have been trying to ban the Grand National for many years. This is nothing new. The only difference I can see now is that more people are aware of the cruelty and needless deaths of these creatures in the name of sport. I hope now the League and the RSPCA will get more support in ending this once and for all. But it will not be easy. We have seen that with the fight against fox hunting with dogs. We must fight on.

  • Lesley Morris

    19/04/2011 09:03

    It's a terrible race; why so many people watch it is beyond me. As one of the people above says - how can we abhor bullfighting when we have carnage of our own? Let's stop this awful race NOW. L Morris

  • Toni

    19/04/2011 10:28

    This needs to be banned along with all the rest of the racing of horses and also greyhounds , why should any animal be forced into doing something they can't speak to tell us yes or no so greedy humans come up with the theory that they enjoy it jus to Try and ease their own concionse, something needs to be done and done now before another animal looses its life , another bug of mine being the major supermarkets one of which I work for are still even though it has been proven that they're quality is far from as good allowed to sell battery eggs, can we do anything to stop this, one voice is not enough , we need everyone who feels this way to unite on this and start applying some real pressure

  • Kerry Holden

    19/04/2011 10:35

    I agree with most of what has been said above, horse racing is a sport for monetary gain and glory, especially races such as the Grand National. It should be boycotted and not glamorised when it is actually no more than animal abuse. I always tell people the facts when they run the sweepstakes at work but unfortunately it falls on deaf ears and until people start to sit up and listen and indeed care about the way in which we treat animals in this country, what hope is there for the rest of the world and cruel sports?

  • Susan May

    19/04/2011 11:23

    Whilst I agree that the Grand National should be banned I think we need to look further than this. I believe that Cheltenham is the worst race course and that the deaths on this track have been as bad if not worse than Aintree. I used to watch horse racing in my teens and was absolutely mad on the horses involved. Some of the horrendous deaths at other meets have been equally as sickening as those of the national. If my information is correct the fences at other race tracks including Cheltenham have a solid pole across the top and then covered in bush. This means that the horse would fall even if it just clipped the top. The GN fences I do believe do not have the pole hence the horses can plough through them. This does not mean they are safe by any means and it is not done for the sake of the horses but because the GN fences are not permanent, unlike other tracks. You also have to look at the betting on the two horses that died - they were both outsiders and basically had no chance unless the fancied favourites came a cropper. These two horses were put in on a pure chance - in affect 'cannon fodder'. Poor sods they never stood a real chance.

  • Y

    19/04/2011 11:41

    Ban all 'horse racing' let's have 'human racing' instead. Humans have a choice - horses don't!!!

  • Patricia Hall

    20/04/2011 05:27

    All sports that use animals for entertainment should be banned. The deaths at Aintree of Dooneys Gate and Ornais was sickening, followed soon after by two more horse deaths, Regal Heights and Minella Four Star when they collapsed and died after the Scottish Grand National. Hurdles should be banned - horse racing and greyhound racing should be banned and the lady who commented that if hurdles were abolished racing would speed up and become more dangerous is absolute rubbish. She is simple relaying what one of the trainers said. Horseracing is full of greed and cruelty - that's why it's called the sport of kings!

  • W Grimes

    22/04/2011 03:27

    Half the problem is money and the other half is snobbery. La-de-da, upper class toffee nosed pratts exploiting the animals like a Roman Emporer would slaves. what are we up to now, 35, 36 dead since 2000 ? If that was the jockeys, 2 or 3 a year dying the health and safety of the race would have been questioned years ago. What truly truly annoys me is the social structure we have in this country lets the people resonsible off when lower classes would have been prossecuted. A generic, but familiar example would be: disabled pensioner, owning a cat on only benefit money. No vaccinations, cheapest cat food on the market and it becomes ill, even though she feeds it and puts it by the fire, the news reports how irrisponsible it is and bans her from keeping animals. As long as you have money and make money these upper class idiots are actually putting their animals in life threatening situations deliberately for monitary gain and nothing is done about it. It's animal abuse far and above anything a low income family would do to their animals. I go in Pets at Home often and even the lowest paid will buy a new bowl or collar, fluffy beds etc for their animals. I don't see any of them buying a whip to beat their animal or get paying spectators to cough up hard cash to watch their cat jump out a 4th floorwindow for entertainment then shrung as if 'oh well' when it snaps it's spine in the fall. Money doesn't make it right. Whatever religion you may be, Bhuddist, Christian etc, the people respected in the world never had money. Gaddaffi, Hitler, Saddam Hussein had money, does that make them better than anyone else? no! It's about time these race organsiers and horse owners faced their responsibilitys and paid for their actions. The posh clothes, pagentry, money changing hands is just a mask, at the end of the day for over a decade horses have been killed in the Grand National every ALWAYS happens. To put a fancy front on it and make it look upper crust is frankly like polishing a turd. No matter how fancy it looks it's still sh*t and it's about time this fake, phoney masqueraded animal slaughter was either banned completely or reformed to stop the deaths every year.

  • Sandy Biddles

    26/04/2011 02:46

    By its very nature this annual abomination in the name of sport is a blood sport. Owners, trainers, jockeys and punters should examine their consciences, accept that there are limits of endurance for these beautiful, brave animals and modify this race without delay. Shame on every individual involved.

  • kate

    04/05/2011 08:31

    i find it quite sad and just a way of making cash is unfair on the welfair of the horses and i wish people would understand how cruel it actually can be.

  • Jilly

    23/05/2011 09:09

    The horses do love it, they would refuse to race if they did'nt and anyone who has worked with horses will know you cant make them do something they dont want to. The whips jockeys carry now are padded to stop horses being injured but there are still restrictions against excessive force and frequency of use. Those who have already stated that lowering fences and shortening the distance would only make the race faster and more dangerous are absolutley right, although i do agree the number of runners could be lowered. Having read through these comments I find it disguting that people who clearly know nothing about the life and psychie of race horses can be so adamant that they know whats best, I have seen commentss saying leave these beautiful creatures alone alone to do what? wander round the streets? If it was'nt for racing they wouldnt have a life at all, and make no mistake these animals are loved and cherished throughout their careers.

  • Margie

    12/10/2011 02:12

    For the love of God, keep wrtinig these articles.

Blogs Archive