Once again horses have been killed on the Grand National course and, as usual, there are calls for action to be taken to make horseracing safer. However, there is a law that can be used to improve safety on race courses.
Clause 9 of the Animal Welfare Act 2006 makes it a criminal offence to fail to protect an animal “from pain, suffering, injury and disease”. As it is common knowledge that horses are killed most years on the Aintree Grand National course, this means that every owner who makes a horse race there does so in contravention of the welfare act.
In 2008, I raised this with the police officer in charge at Aintree and with the local authority responsible for animal welfare at the course. Both agreed with my interpretation of the law, but declined to prosecute any owners as it was not compulsory for either of them to do so and they did not think bringing a prosecution would be in the public interest.
The welfare act was not brought in for the public interest but to protect animals and prosecute those who knowingly put animals at risk.
Prosecuting a few owners for making horses run on dangerous courses would soon force racecourse owners to take the matter seriously and remove lethally dangerous fences.
John F Robins
Animal Concern Advice Line