No doubt, people will be organising little office stakes for the Grand National today; you may drop some cash into the hat, believing that this just a bit of harmless fun, pass it off as a little flutter. Well, it’s not. It’s complicity in a barbaric, heartless and cruel “sport” which yesterday, the first day of the Aintree meeting, claimed the lives of two more horses. In the past year, 178 horses have been killed at Britain’s 60 racecourses.
This week has seen much coverage of the Spanish town Manzanares el Real’s decision to cancel their annual bullfighting festival for economic reasons and the consequent resurfacing of the debate about whether bullfighting is cruel – with which an implied majority of people seem to agree. Oddly, the same doesn’t seem to apply to horse racing; it’s the so-called ‘Sport of Kings’, there’s a collective blindness to what these beautiful creatures are being forced to do, and even professed ‘animal lovers’ believe that thoroughbred horses are treated well and with respect. It’s simply not true. Their single purpose to their owners is to feed greed: to generate money for said owners, race courses and, of course, bookmakers. What’s even worse is the complicity of the media, who does its level best to hide the horror of racecourses and the shameful killing of animals from the public so that this jollified farce can continue.
Check the BBC’s website for yesterday’s events. They can’t bury the fact that nine-year-old Exotic Dancer, a horse with known heart problems, died of a heart attack after the 3-mile Totesport Bowl Chase, because he was the runner-up in the race. They also report that another horse, Denman, fell with two fences to go and, although he fell heavily and sustained a deep cut, he’s expected to make a full recovery. But harder to find is any mention of Mel In Blue, a 200-1 outsider in the 2 3/4 mile Foxhunters’ Chase, who fell at the notorious Becher’s Brook and suffered a broken neck. The news of Mel In Blue’s death warranted barely a sentence from the BBC; he was a low-rated horse who hadn’t raced in almost a year, and hadn’t even been able to complete the courses in his last two races. The inhuman callousness of the decision to race him on the Grand National course is shocking beyond belief. It’s horribly typical of the paucity of morals inherent in this whole industry.
Last year, Daily Mail journalist Liz Jones visited Aintree and wrote this excellent piece on the horror she witnessed, an article I recommend you read – and then pass on to anyone who feels that having “a flutter” on the shameful Grand National, or any other horse race, is anything like a “harmless bit of fun”.