How many racehorses are slaughtered each year in the UK? Answer: thousands often under inhumane circumstances. Sadly, we can more or less answer the question in the first sentence from an article in The Times today about the cruel death of racehorses as shown in a film from an abattoir. In the UK, more than 4,000 racehorses have been slaughtered in abattoirs since 2019. Shockingly, many have been killed inhumanely with a bullet fired at a distance and in front of other horses.
The BBC’s Panorama programme has produced evidence of failures to prevent horses dying a cruel and painful death in abattoirs. The program is called The Dark Side of Horseracing. It is to be aired on July 19, 2021, tonight. Also shockingly, some of the horses shot in this cruel way had successful careers winning thousands of pounds for their owners. And they were linked to some of the biggest names in horseracing.
The programme shows secret footage taken at the F Drury & Sons abattoir in Swindon. Three horses slaughtered there were trained by Gordon Elliott. He is a three-time Grand National winning trainer. He was suspended from racing when a picture was published of him sitting on a dead horse. These three horses were trained at his stables in Co Meath near Dublin. Elliott said that none of the animals were sent by him to the abattoir.
He said that they had been retired from racing because of injury and at the time there were sent to the abattoir they were not under his care or ownership. Two of the horses were sent to a horse dealer to be rehomed or humanely euthanised, while a third was given to another rider as requested by the horse’s owner. No money changed hands in any of cases. He learnt of the slaughter of the horses at this abattoir when the television documentary makers contacted him.
Daniel Mills, an equine expert at Lincoln University, has seen the video evidence and said that that some of the horses had not been stunned before being shot. The film shows 91 horses being shot from a distance of yards and not close-up. And on 26 occasions horses were shot on sight of each other.
The hidden cameras were set up by Animal Aid which opposes commercial horseracing. The video shows regulations being routinely ignored. A consultant for animal aid, Dene Stansall, told the programme: “We wanted to see what actually happened there. When we looked at the footage we were astounded at the sheer volume of young thoroughbreds.”
The filming was recorded at the end of 2019 and the start of 2020. Dozens of former racehorses were slaughtered most of them from Ireland. The slaughtered business concerned told Panorama that they take great care to maintain high welfare conditions. They stressed that they do not accept any form of animal abuse and all their horses are humanely destroyed. When things go wrong, they take swift action they said.
The governing bodies for horseracing both in Ireland and in Britain said that they are committed to the humane treatment of horses throughout their lives.
Conclusion: the answer to the question in the title is 4,000 racehorses since 2019. This does not tell you how many are slaughtered annually in the UK but it gives a very good indication that it is in the thousands but more importantly perhaps is the manner in which they are slaughtered.
Animal Aid is a British animal rights organisation, founded in 1977 by Jean Pink.
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