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Last Updated: Saturday, 18 March 2006, 11:24 GMT
Head to head: horse race deaths
Horses leap fences at Cheltenham
Some 370 horses die racing yearly, say campaigners
Nine horses are dead after the final race at this year's Cheltenham Festival - the highest toll for 10 years.

Animal welfare campaigners want high risk races to be banned and are calling for the organisers to resign, but the racing industry insists horses are well-treated and enjoy the events.

DEAN STANSELL
Horse racing consultant from animal charity Animal Aid

The racecourse organisers are busy trying to attract corporate sponsorship and putting up hospitality tents at the racecourse, rather than being concerned about the safety of the horses.

This wasn't a freakish accident - it happens every day on British racing courses. It's endemic within racing.

I don't think people are actually aware of what goes on within this industry.

People don't know what goes on behind those green screens when they shoot a horse.

When people are actually fully aware of the facts they will turn away and stop betting and supporting race courses like Cheltenham.

Those downhill fences kill horses and there are too many horses in the races - that's just two reasons why horses die.

'Change needed'

Racing of this sort where seven horses die in three days really should be banned.

Anyone who's concerned about horse welfare would support that too.

Three hundred and seventy horses are dying every year on British race courses and that needs change and it needs change from the top.

These jumpers that are jumping fences are bred from flat horses. They're not designed to jump these fences - that is why we have got these horses dying.

DR PETER WEBBON
Veterinary Director for the Jockey Club

This was the highest single day fatality rate for 20 years - the highest rate for the meeting for 10 years. In other words, this was exceptional.

We don't know why that happened. We will go to every possible length to find out why it happened and if there's anything that can be done to prevent a recurrence we will do that.

I don't consider it to be cruel.

These horses are racehorses. They love racing. They are bred to race. They have the most outstanding quality of life. They're looked after, they're pampered but they are athletes and fit athletes.

And just like any other athlete, including the jockeys, every time they go out to race they put themselves at risk.

After the National Hunt Festival at Cheltenham every year we have a review to see what and if anything can be improved.

Because of the fatality rate this year we will be concentrating very much on that.

'Legitimate activity'

They (Animal Aid) want to ban racing completely. They want to see racing stopped, they don't believe it is a legitimate activity, whereas the vast majority of the public believe it is a legitimate activity which gives a great deal of pleasure to a lot of people.

The field sizes at Cheltenham are much bigger than they are at any other race course because it is such a big race course.

Every race course has what we call a safety factor which is the number of horses which the race course inspectors believe it can safely race around the course.

If the race course has a high safety factor then obviously they have a lot of runners in each race.

That in itself immediately increases the likelihood you're going to have problems simply because there are more horses competing.



SEE ALSO:
Jockey Club to investigate deaths
17 Mar 06 |  Horse Racing


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