By Nick Pierce
Three horses died after suffering serious injuries during a race at Cheltenham Festival yesterday, bringing the total number of horse casualties to five at this year’s event.
Animal rights groups have reacted furiously to the tragic incidents, alleging that the ground was dangerously firm and that the organisers were irresponsible to go ahead with the race.
Cheltenham Festival officials defended their decision by saying that the welfare of the horses was taken seriously and labelling organisations like Animal Aid as ‘extremists’.
Dene Stansall, Horse Racing Consultant for Animal Aid hit back by saying: “What kind of so-called sporting event is it that kills three horses in a single day, and yet those involved pretend either that it didn’t happen or that the deaths are of no consequence?”
Critics of the festival argue that there are too many horses featured in the races and that the animals are put under enormous pressure by the noisy crowds and chaotic atmosphere.
Robin Mounsey of the British Horseracing Authority said that the sport’s regulator would collect evidence of the various injuries and decide whether further action was necessary “to reduce risk where possible”.