Britain’s Green Party believes a racing review is needed to ensure that the welfare of animals genuinely comes first.
“If the industry, as it claims, really does put welfare first then it has nothing to fear from such a review,” said the party spokeswoman for animals, Caroline Allen, who is a working veterinarian.
“It should also be more than happy to gather and publish statistics around breeding, injury and deaths and what happens to horses when they leave racing.”
Allen laid out her views in an opinion piece published by The Express.
She described the Grand National steeplechase at Aintree, run last weekend, as a good starting point for a debate about how much animal suffering should be tolerated in the name of sport.
“While there were fortunately no deaths in the actual Grand National this year, there were two racing deaths in less high-profile races during the weekend festival,” she said.
“What’s more, those two deaths count as only one sixth of the total number of horses to have died as a direct result of horse racing in the last month.
“In how many other sports would we tolerate this, especially if the participants had no choice?”
Allen argued that “cruelty” within the industry extended beyond racehorse deaths in high-profile races.
“As a vet, I spent time during my training at top yards and less glamorous establishments and saw first-hand the other issues that are hidden away.
“There is a common misconception that the top racehorses live a life of luxury. But from an animal welfare perspective, a key assessment is whether the animal has the ability to express normal behaviour.
“Horses are social, grazing animals, so racehorses are actually more like ‘battery horses’, walked around and around in giant exercise wheels or stuck in a stable for very long periods.”
Allen said it was not uncommon for these stabled horses to develop vices.
Thirty percent of horses in racing stables showed these behaviours in two studies in 2002, she said. They also had incidences of stomach ulcers which she described as extremely high.
Allen also expressed concern at the timing of breeding and the number of foals that did not make it through to race.