Animal Aid have called for the Grand National to be “banned” as it “epitomises everything that is wrong with racing”.

The Grand National festival starts today (April 11) at Aintree Racecourse in Liverpool, with the main event taking place this Saturday.

Merseyside Police have increased security at Aintree after protests last year.

The 2023 National was delayed by 14 minutes due to protests from Animal Rising, the police making 118 arrests on the day.

Despite the group having no plans to protest this year, welfare remains an issue with Animal Aid describing the event as ‘animal cruelty’.

Dene Stansall, Horse Welfare Consultant at Animal Aid, said there were a number of issues involved.

“There’s overbreeding…far more racehorses are bred than will ever race.

“69% of all horses bred for racing actually make it to a racecourse, and what happens to the other 31% we don’t know.

“Around a quarter of all the horses being slaughtered were thoroughbred racehorses or connected with the racing industry.

“We would like to see a ban on jump racing because for every four horses that die on racecourses, three of them die in jump races such as the Grand National.”

Horses running
horse race event, image credit – Limadezign

According to the British Horseracing Authority, over £47 million has been invested in the last 20 years into veterinary research and education, to improve animal welfare.

To improve welfare standards, this year’s National will be reduced to a maximum of 34 runners from 40.

Organisers have also brought the race forward to 4pm to provide safer ground for the horses.

Animal Aid raise aftercare concerns

However, Animal Aid remains concerned about the aftercare of racehorses.

“£12 million is needed each year to help racehorses and we are seeing less than a million to help these horses who leave,” Stansall added.

“We need a proper structure and policy to help horses when they finish racing and not leaving it down to luck.”

When asked about increased security at the Grand National, Stansall said: “It’s wrong that protests should be limited and controlled by authorities.

“We believe that those freedoms shouldn’t be taken away from people.”

(main pic under creative commons by Paul on Flickr)