On Friday I went to the Grand National at Aintree with a few mates, before then going out into Liverpool. Although I didn’t expect this to be a day full of material for a ‘politically themed’ blog, the day itself had two points of interest amongst the miracle of being £65 up after the races.
The first was being told that I should feel bad for attending the races because of the issue over animal welfare, particularly voiced by the ‘boycott the national’ campaign and PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals). The second was the breaking news of the firing of 59 Tomahawk missiles, targeted for Syria in response to the reported use of chemical weapons from President Bashar al-Assad, from the US. Admittedly the reference to the campaign against the Grand National was made by a friend of mine when messaging him that morning to tell him I was attending, the breaking news of Trump launching the missiles came as breaking news at 4pm in the morning. Needless to say I was in different states of both perception and indeed consciousness.
As I want to make sure I give these two issues apt coverage, this initial blog will address the animal rights argument, while the next blog will focus on possibly the more historic moment of that day.
So following a friend of mine bringing up the whole ‘boycott the grand national’ debate I decided to do a bit of research on the issue. This included looking at the PETA’s main page for the campaign and the ‘five reasons to boycott the national’. So lets go through these five reasons.
1- Fatal injuries are commonplace.
Of course this is an important issue. The death of any animal is awful and any measures to prevent fatalities should be taken. This year, no fatalities came of the race as all horses returned safely from all races across all three days. Indeed this year makes it the fifth grand national to pass without fatality. I am by no means diminishing the importance of the health of both horse and jockey, but this five year clean sheet, is surely a sign of improvement and progression.
2- Becher’s Brook is dangerous.
On this argument PETA says that ‘Known as the world’s most dangerous jump, Becher’s Brook predictably claimed the life of another vulnerable horse last year. Why not just dig holes on the course for the animals to trip on and stumble into while they’re at it?’ This really does signal the absolute misunderstanding of a) the physical nature of the sport and b) the motivation of the sport. Any sport has the danger of injury attached. From a broken leg in rugby to a poked eye in tiddlywinks, the injury doesn’t always tell us something about the sport itself, but rather the dynamic of the competition. To reach the conclusion that as there is one ‘notoriously’ tricky jump, the whole event must be boycotted is hyperbolic, rash and a confusion of what sport means to the athletes, spectators and the wider industry.
3- It’s impossible to improve the racecourse.
Simply, changes have been made and this has had an affect.
4- Horses are raced too young.
Like any animal, maturity depends on many differing factors and the age at which a horse is races is up to many different people. It is not in the interest to any of these people (owners, trainers, jockey) to race any horse to young and there will be a negative implication on performance and investment for the future.
5- The focus is on money, not welfare.
This is the only point that makes me question my day out. I admit, a lot of the day was focused on having a good time generally and part of that was trying to make some money out of the races. I was very pleased to be up after the day as I’m sure are the trainers, owners, jockeys and stables, when their horse wins. The money involved in horse racing is phenomenal, but I also believe a large part of the sport is focused on the ability and condition of the horse. I would say that most people involved in racing recognise the fact that any monetary gain they do make, is through the horse and its training. Therefore surely it is in everyones interest for the focus to be on welfare as well as money.
So to conclude my top three horse jokes, again two of which were provided by my dad!
What kind of bread does a horse eat? Thoroughbred
A horse walks into a bar. The bartender says, “Hey.” The horse says, “Buddy—you read my mind!”
What is a horse’s favourite sport? Stable tennis.