The RSPCA is “very concerned and upset” by the death of five racehorses at the Cheltenham Festival, which campaigners say confirms the reputation of the festival as “a bloody and unforgiving event”.

The RSPCA is “very concerned and upset” by the death of five racehorses at the Cheltenham Festival, which campaigners say just confirms the reputation of the festival as “a bloody and unforgiving event”.
 
The incidents, three of which took place on the opening day, saw a total of five horses euthanised after accidents at the Gloucestershire racing event. Two were injured during flat races, and three while going over jumps.

RSPCA equine consultant David Muir, who is at the event to monitor horse welfare during the festival, said: “These deaths show the unacceptable face of horse racing. Any death on any racecourse simply cannot be justified.
 
“The RSPCA is here at the festival to ensure that if any lessons can be learned from these deaths we will lobby the British Horseracing Authority for changes to save horses in the future.
 
“We are also here to ensure that when horses are injured they received immediate veterinary care.”

In the wake of the tragic incidents, animal-rights campaign group Animal Aid slammed festival organisers, saying the race that cost the lives of Scotsirish and Garde Champetre should “never have taken place, given that it was run on dangerously firm ground”.

Animal Aid director Andrew Tyler said: “The news that five horses have now been killed in just two days of racing at Cheltenham confirms the reputation of the festival as a bloody and unforgiving event […] Cheltenham has now killed 38 horses since 2000. Calling it a sporting event is a travesty.”

Cheltenham racecourseIn an official statement, the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) said it was “regrettable” that several horses had suffered accidents where the injury was not treatable and claimed that, in these cases, euthanasia was the “proper and humane option”.

However, contrary to reports in The Telegraph yesterday (March 14, 2012), the BHA told vetsonline it was not launching a full inquiry into the incidents, but would be following standard procedure.

A spokesman said: “As with every equine injury or fatality, detailed data will be collated by the BHA, examining the type of injury in question and the context in which it took place. This is routine for the BHA and shows how, as an independent regulator, the BHA works with the racecourses to manage and reduce risk where possible, making rational and measured decisions based on data collected.

“Our long-term focus is to identify significant trends and robustly analyse the risk. Racecourses, horse racing trainers and the sport’s regulator are not complacent about these risks and recognise there is always more to do to further reduce these risks.”

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