As the first horse dies at Cheltenham, animal rights groups call for immediate action

National animal rights charity the League Against Cruel Sports is calling for tighter safety measures in horse racing as the Cheltenham Festival, at which 74 horses have died in 23 years, continues it’s deadly toll.

Cheltenham: another horse dead

At every single Cheltenham Festival since the year 2000 – apart from 2001, which was cancelled due to foot and mouth – at least one horse has died as a result of being raced. This year has already been no different.

As the Oxford Mail reported, on Tuesday 12 March:

a horse has had to be put down.

Just after the 2.50pm Ultima Handicap Chase set off, the horse Highland Hunter suffered a fatal fall.

ITV confirmed: “Highland Hunter has sadly passed away after suffering a fatal injury in the Ultima Handicap. Our thoughts are with connections at this difficult time”.

Highland Hunter died of a fatal heart attack. Emma Judd, head of campaigns at the League Against Cruel Sports, said:

As the festival gets underway again this year we knew it’s inevitable at least one horse was going to die needlessly for entertainment.

These shocking figures show that tighter safety measures are imperative to protect these animals and their jockeys.

A new independent regulatory body with horse welfare as its number one priority needs to be created.

This is ‘animal abuse’

The League is also campaigning for the use of the whip to be banned in horse racing, because it causes pain, and pushes tired horses beyond their limits.

An Early Day Motion in 2020 calling on the government to ensure the British Horse Racing Authority banned the use of the whip for ‘encouragement’, was signed by 97 MPs.

Its use was banned in Sweden in 2022, and it can now only be used to ward off a dangerous situation.

Iain Green, director at Animal Aid, told the Oxford Mail that “the racing authorities, the breeders, the owners, the jockeys and all equally culpable for putting horses into high-risk situations where their welfare and their lives are endangered.

He added:

This isn’t sport, this is animal abuse.

Judd added:

In what other public spectacle or sport would the beating of an animal play an integral role in influencing the outcome or result?

This callous disregard for the welfare of the horse has no place in a caring animal loving Britain and urgent steps need to be taken to end the use of the whip for ‘encouragement’ in horse racing.

Featured image via Racing TV – YouTube

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