Why 62.5% of the Grand National runners did not finish.

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.

Riderless race horse

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.

Related posts:

Understanding our general attitudes to animals

Our reaction to a wasp or bee joining us for lunch is very telling of how we view all animals.

Our interaction with creatures such as a wasp or a bee can tell us a lot about our general attitudes to animals. Our first thought when a wasp joins us for an outdoor meal or enters our abode is to drive it away with any tool that comes to hand. We do this because we view them as a threat and a nuisance because of their capability to give us a painful sting particularly if children are about.

Waving our arms or newspaper or paper plate about often only has a short-lived effect. If the wasp persists in its attempts to share our food, we become frustrated and angry and have no compunction in using any weapon that comes to hand to selfishly kill it, just because it has invaded our space and become a nuisance, disrupted our pleasure and become a danger or threat.

bee, nectar, flower, attitudes
We see more value in the life of a bee than a wasp.

We see more value in the life of a bee.

But if a bee should do the same, most of us tend to show a little more compassion and patience despite its equal capacity to sting, because we have been conditioned to realise its existence has some value to us in its role in nature. So we try harder and more humanely to dissuade its intentions.  Ultimately though, if it persists, and particularly if we fear an allergy to its sting, we will again kill it because of its threat to us.

Unfortunately for the wasp it does not have the same reputation as the bee even though it is of similar use to mankind by being one of nature’s pest controllers. Of course, should a fly decide to join us it has no chance as we have been indoctrinated from an early age to view them as the bad guys because they pose a health hazard and are classified as pests so do not deserve to exist.

Flies are viewed as bad guys of the animal world not worthy of our empathy.

We have a habit of categorising animals

This kind of scenario encapsulates most of our attitudes to animals and our curious relationship with them. We have a habit of categorising all animals, and judging them by their reputations and what has been indoctrinated into us from an early age. We are all guilty of having preferences and unconsciously grading our level of empathy and compassion towards their well-being dependent on the type of animal and the circumstances involved.

Our basic attitude is that of intolerance and our belief that we have the last say in any interaction we have with them. We feel we only have to endure their presence if we judge them to have some value to our well-being and enjoyment and we firmly believe that we have the decisive ultimate sanction to kill them at will when they get in our way, pose a threat or become a nuisance.

Animal abuse is inevitable and perpetual.

So, the next time you swat a fly or wasp or wash a spider down the plug-hole take a second to analyse why you think nothing of it. It may only be an inconsequential event to most of us, but sub-consciously it reinforces our in-built belief that we have the right to kill animals at will and without compunction – a state of mind that sadly will never change.

Those of us who strive to improve the status of animals have, and will always be up against these complex attitudes which are difficult, if not impossible, to change once our mind-set is fixed. This unfortunately is why animal abuse is inevitable and perpetual.

Related Articles: