Extra veterinary support and water stations have been prepared for this weekend's Scottish Grand National following the death of two horses at last weekend’s English Grand National. Seven horses died in the two races last year. The animal deaths has caused demands from animal welfare charities for an overhaul of the design of steeplechase races, which feature obstacles for the horses to jump.
“They are not basically designed for running and jumping in the way the modern racehorse has been bred,” said Dr. Deborah Jones, a Fellow, The Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics and the General Secretary of the group Catholic Concern for Animals. “They’ve got comparatively spindly legs and they’re just not prepared for the sort of jumps which are being presented to them these days.”
She pointed out steeplechase racing in Britain is connected with the now-banned tradition of fox-hunting with hounds.
“The horses have needed - and the jockeys have needed - to clear hedges and fences and farm gates in order to keep up with the hunt,” she told Vatican Radio.
“Now that hunting has been banned, there is really no need for training horses - for breeding horses - to be prepared to have this sort of racing ability,” she said. “It would be much better to keep horses as flat-race horses, or with only perhaps moderate jumps. But the whole thing really should be looked at from an ethical point of view, whether we should be exploiting animals in this way.”
Listen to full interview by Charles Collins with Dr. Deborah Jones: