Annual Grand National 'carnage' covered up in bid to sell television
footage overseas, say campaigners
BBC has been urged to show the deaths of any racehorses when they broadcast
the Grand National meeting at Aintree, which starts this week. Activists
claim a television "cover-up" is helping to perpetuate a "national
disgrace". The organisers of Britain's biggest race day have also been
threatened with legal action if any horses are killed or injured during
this year's race.
group Animal Aid has accused the BBC of "concealment and a negation
of basic journalistic standards" by, it says, barely mentioning the
deaths of five horses at last year's meeting. In a letter to Barbara Slater,
director of BBC sport, it claimed the broadcaster is "fashioning a
dishonest, sanitised picture" to maximise overseas sales of footage.
accusation came as the group launched a publicity drive to get people to
stop betting on the race. It plans protests at Aintree course, where a 40-strong
field takes on 30 fences over a gruelling 4.5 mile course on Saturday.
were killed at last year's Grand National meeting – the highest since
1997. During the past decade, 30 horses have died and many others injured
at the event. The campaigners say that more than 500 horses have died on
British racecourses since March 2007.
claim that race organisers could be in breach of the law, and are threatening
legal action. Andrew Tyler, director of Animal Aid, said: "The Animal
Welfare Act talks about a duty of care, and clearly that is breached because
the animals are subjected to an unreasonable and predictable hazard involving
unnecessary suffering that can result in death or injury." He added:
"We are going to seek legal advice as to the prospects of a successful
prosecution being mounted against the race organisers if horses die or are
injured during this year's race."
RSPCA has also urged jockeys to exercise caution. David Muir, the charity's
equine consultant, said: "When jockeys go into the Grand National they
have to remember what their duties are under the animal welfare laws. For
example, taking a tired horse over jumps when they are out of contention
is totally unacceptable."
In a statement, the BBC denied taking part in any "cover-up".
A spokesman said: "With live coverage of all horse racing, the cameras
show the full race as it happens. Following a race the BBC presenter gives
an update on the condition of any horses involved in an incident and will
inform viewers in the case of a fatality."
racecourse said they recognised racing was risky and that they worked hard
with organisations such as the RSPCA to minimise the risk. Professor Tim
Morris, director of equine science and welfare for the British Horseracing
Authority, said: "The position of horseracing generally and the Grand
National specifically has already been fully examined with respect to the
2006 Animal Welfare Act.
has been no question that horseracing is a lawful activity... and that reasonable
steps are taken to reduce the inherent risks in horseracing and avoid unnecessary