62.5% of horses did not finish the 2021 Grand National and two died. Are we all guilty for allowing this unnecessary suffering to continue.
In memory of The Long Mile & Houx Gris
The 2021 Grand National spectacle and pageant is over with just two deaths and those are anti-horseracing and those that stage the event are both probably breathing a sigh of relief but for different reasons. Those against because only two horses were sacrificed in the carnage to satiate our betting addiction and for the organisers it means the any bad publicity and outrage is kept minimal. Only 15 horses finished or to put it another way, 25 (62.5%) of the field of 40 did not finish. It is a very telling statistic.
Are we putting too much emphasis on how many die?
We are obviously all thankful that only two horses died, but this is still too many. But are we being side tracked by putting too much emphasis on how many die rather than concentrating on the legalities of putting all these horses through such mental and physical suffering, and the unnecessary danger and over exertion just to entertain and feed our entrenched gambling habits.
In this years race, 15 horses pulled up, 4 fell, 4 unseated their rider, and one very sensible horse named Ballyoptic called it quits and refused to jump. This is an increase on last year. Realistically the large number of non-finishers must mean that the course is too punishing for most of the horses and they are either not fit enough or just not up to it. So are we all guilty of condoning this unnecessary suffering and could it be classified as contravening welfare laws? The evidence may be in the statistics.
15 horses were pulled up meaning their riders felt they were suffering and it was cruel to put them through any more punishment. The four that unseated their riders were no doubt too weakened and exhausted and did not jump in the way the rider anticipated. The four who fell were pushed too far risking serious injury and possible fatal consequences. The two that died were definitely pushed beyond their capabilities.
Trivial changes to the course will never prevent horse suffering.
Although the racecourse authorities have made changes to the fences, stables, cooling down procedures and god knows what to improve “horse welfare,” everyone knows that the race in its present state will never be safe for the horses or riders unless you remove the fences altogether and shorten the race. At present it is purely an endurance event and more like the Charge of the Light Brigade or ancient Rome’s chariot racing than a civilised sporting event.
In Australia jump racing is increasingly being viewed as outdated and attendances are falling in Victoria and South Australia, the only two states which haven’t banned jump racing. These states are under pressure to follow suit in the wake of the others who banned jumping decades ago. 74 horses were killed in races and many more injured in 2020 in the two states. There is considerable campaigning at the moment, but in the UK there isn’t the same level of interest in stopping it.
To truly do everything to protect the horses and jockey’s welfare would involve removing all the excitement, the spectacle and the pageant for the baying crowd to enjoy. Unfortunately horse racing like football is ingrained into our sporting pysche and is a sport enjoyed by the masses and so will never be banned entirely, but the death rate could easily be banished by banning jumps to the history books.
We are killing wild animals by our crass behaviour and because of our ignorance of how to act around them.
Too many people are ignorant of how to act around wild animals.
We are killing and stressing wild animals by our crass behaviour and ignorance of how to act around them. We cannot resist our fascination with getting close to wild animals regardless of the consequences to the animals concerned.
On beaches near where I live there are colonies of seals and recently in the space of three days one seal pup which wasn’t weaned and too young to have a waterproof coat, was chased into the water by two young children where it drowned while the children’s mother watched proudly on.
Another was abandoned by its mother when it was surrounded by a crowd of noisy onlookers taking selfies. A third was attacked and killed by an unleashed dog whose owner either didn’t care or was unable to control the dog properly off a lead.
Criminal offence to cause the death of a wild animal.
Few if any people are aware or care that it is a criminal offence in the UK to cause the death of a protected species, not that many will even know what a protected species is.
Sadly, it is not just wild animals. I once watched two young children chasing ewes around a farmers field while their parents encouraged them finding it amusing. I had to intervene pointing out that if their children were dogs they could have been shot. Children have a natural impulse to either chase after or throw something at any animals they come across whether it is seagulls on the beach or ducks and pigeons in the park and unless guided by their parents that this unacceptable behaviour and explain why, their children will never see the harm in it. But the problem is that many parents have little understanding themselves.
Dog owners to blame also.
Dog owners are just as much to blame as well and many are happy to see their beloved dogs having fun chasing after any animal that moves and destroying habitat. I was once engrossed looking into pond in a nature reserve full of pondlife when two Labradors plunged in and turned it into a mud bath. The owner was not concerned in the least. Chasing animals or disturbing them appears to be a recreational sport to some and yet they would probably object to hare coursing or sheep worrying.
This human intervention as it is often called, or ignorant and crass behaviour, is a worldwide problem. The smiles on the faces of the holidaymakers on the beach and these on a Costa Rican turtle egg laying beach are more proof of this behaviour. Some of the adults and their children were witnessed posing and riding on their backs.
The problems arise when the animals cannot escape or are forced to abandon their dependents. No wonder most wildlife runs for the hills when they see humans approaching. Meanwhile back at the seal colony in Norfolk they are building a 1.2 km. fence at considerable cost to protect the seals from us and our pets.