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“You Bet; They Die.” Should Horseracing Be Banned?

Horse Racing, a sport stuck in the past? “A sport where horses are whipped, disposed of and pushed beyond their capabilities” says League Against Cruel Sports campaigner Ellie Greer, “It’s only a matter of time before a horse dies at this year’s festival.”

Over the years have many voiced their displeasure that horseracing is still practiced and enjoyed as a sport. With numerous deaths each year as well as countless horses receiving life changing injuries for the enjoyment of the punters, is it right that in 2023 we still involve ourselves in such activities? Through the bustling streets of Cheltenham on day one of the festival there was a small group of protestors making their feelings on this issue known.

Among the signs and posters on display was a rather harrowing gravestone with the name of every horse that had died at the Cheltenham festival on display, including the four that died last year. “It’s inhumane, we’re here to spread our message that this sport is completely outdated; we’re calling for a complete ban to the whip and an independent regulator.”

In 2021 it is reported that over 200 horses died in Britain alone; the numbers speak for themselves, and Greer says this is just the tip of the iceberg. “It’s terrible, but that’s not half of it. Look at the thoroughbreds that don’t make it, and the treatment of those that receive life changing injuries. When horses stop making their owners money, they become dispensable.” We have already seen a nasty fall from Dysart Dynamo on day one of the races and he was extremely lucky to get up without injury.

This will be the first festival with the new whip rule in use; the change of the rule is an effort to improve the perception of the whip itself. The news rules state that riders cannot whip a horse more than seven times during a race and, if guilty, jockeys could face fines or suspensions from the sport.

Despite the opposition to horse racing there are of course some clear benefits. The horses that race are often well cared for, they receive quality grooming and are well sheltered. There is also an argument to be made that horseracing is the greatest achievement for these horses and, as a consequence, they receive adoration from thousands of fans. Just look at the reception Honeysuckle got after winning his third title in a row – he was given his moment in the spotlight.

It’s also difficult not to look at the financial aspects of the sport. In 2022 Cheltenham Festival raised over £270m for the local economy; the ban that many are calling for would have a big impact on the local businesses that rely on the near 300,000 people that will pass through the town throughout the week. I would say that despite the obvious issues surrounding the sport, for the horses, festivals like Cheltenham are the pinnacle of their lives. They are bred to race and should be allowed to

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