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Grand National: Can We Ever Call It Sport?

06/04/2017 16:52 BST | Updated 06/04/2017 16:53 BST
Jason Hosking via Getty Images

I'm ashamed to admit that I've placed a few bets on the Grand National before. It was about 9 years ago, when I was working in radio and between reading the news; I would run upstairs and place a bet on different horses. At the time, I really didn't think there was anything wrong with it. After all, most of the country gets behind the annual race.

Since then, I've recoiled as friends have got together to watch the race or got dressed up to attend race courses across the UK. These are the same people who post on social media about how outraged they are about bullfighting in Spain, yet seem to turn a blind eye to animal abuse happening on their doorstep.

With this year's Grand National just a few days away, maybe it's time we reconsidered just how cruel this national sport actually is.

1. Horses die every year

Since 2000, 48 horses have been killed during the Grand National with four dying due to injuries obtained at last year's race. These horses suffered unnecessary and extremely painful deaths often from fractured bones and broken spines after falling at the hurdles.

2. Former race horses are slaughtered

There's no happy ending for those horses that are too old, too slow or just not fit enough to race anymore. While there should be some kind of sanctuary for these hard working animals, they are instead sent to the slaughterhouse to become dog food or their meat is sold as gourmet food to counties like France.

3. Horses are whipped

Can you imagine having someone come and whip you at the gym because you're not running fast enough on the treadmill? Well that's what it's like for horses who are whipped all the way to the finish line. The jockeys are actually required to carry a whip with them which makes it even worse. You wouldn't approve if your neighbour started whipping a dog in the street, so why do we all turn a blind eye to this sort of abuse?

4. Horses are loaded with drugs

The use of drugs to improve the performance of horses in racing is a very common practise. Some animals are given stimulants to give them an extra energy boost, while pain relief is used on others to mask pain from disease or injury. Often the horses are in pain due to being overworked, and this is a sign they should slow down not continue to race.

5. Horses are racing too young

Horse skeletons are not mature until the animal reaches the age of five, yet horses are trained and raced years before then. The pressure of racing too young can cause a number of injuries to the animals still-maturing joints which could be prevented if the horse was allowed to grow before it started racing.