A TONBRIDGE-BASED animal welfare charity are calling for improvements to regulation in competitive horseracing.
Animal Aid, whose headquarters are situated in Bradford Street, argue that the sport’s public popularity masks a far grimmer reality behind the scenes.
“The image the racing industry promotes is that of a harmless sport in which its prize asset – the thoroughbred race horse – is cosseted and treated like a king.
“In reality, no other sport comes close to matching racing’s attrition rate. If it did, a ban would quickly be imposed. Approximately one in every 37 horses who start a season’s racing will have perished by the end of it,” according to their report on ‘The Trouble With Horse Racing’.
Animal Aid also point to the poor treatment of horses while they are alive, from long periods of confinement for most of the day to the use of the whip during races.
“Horses are the only animals who may be beaten in public for entertainment,” they argue.
There is also a high prevalence of serious and painful illnesses caused by inbreeding. Around 82 per cent of flat race horses older than three years of age suffer from bleeding lungs while 93 per cent of horses in training suffer from gastric ulcers.
Animal Aid campaigner Dene Stansall said: “What we want to do is reach out to the public and say this is what’s happening. We’re not saying we’re going to ban horse-racing, that’s like trying to ban football – it’s not going to happen.
“What we do want to do is bring in some regulations to the 60 horse racing tracks around the UK, and ensure each track has its own independent auditor.”
The British Horseracing Authority responded: “The welfare of horses is the number one priority for everyone involved in British racing,” adding that the whip is designed not to cause pain, but instead as an aid to concentration.
One Animal Aid employee demonstrated her commitment to the cause last week [July 3] when she jumped into the Medway in Tonbridge to save a pigeon that was apparently drowning.
Jessamy Korotoga, who is the chairty’s anti-vivisection campaigner, was well prepared for the rescue as she was training for a triathlon on Sunday [July 9] – in which she was fundraising for Animal Aid.
The pigeon is now in the care of Folly Wildlife Rescue in Tunbridge Wells.