Why do we need events like the Grand National?
In the papers yesterday I came across an article where jockey Peter Nelson declared he would never enter the Grand National again following the death of his horse.
I read about two horses being put down over the weekend and as an animal lover, the news not only saddened me, but also ignited fury towards the event itself. It made me think whether it would be so bad if the Grand National was phased out.
Time after time horses get injured to such a degree they need to be put down and yet no one seems to care as long as the show goes on and keeps flowing, as Coleen Rooney and her girl friends demonstrated clinging on to what looked like betting slips in some photos.
It’s all good that the RSPCA is urging further review into ‘drop’ fences, but as Animal Aid said: “There is nothing sporting about an event that routinely kills so many horses.” And I completely agree.
Any ‘sport’ that runs the risk of animals being hurt or killed is, in my opinion, no sport at all. How do people reason with themselves to support – let alone attend – something like the Grand National? Is it the thought that horse racing in particular still gives off the air of being the ‘Sport of Kings’ as dubbed by past aristocrats, which superficially gives people this subconscious feeling of superiority and importance? Because if it does, then they’ll be disheartened to know that attitudes have changed.
Of course there are going to be the die-hard fans of these kind of sports that are waiting to pounce and give some obscure reason defending the likes of Aintree and Ascot. Chris McGrath of the Belfast Telegraph wrote about the Grand National set for some changes after the tragic event but also took a somewhat defensive approach to the fact that horses cannot be exempt from suffering injuries. But injuries are one thing – death is another.
He wrote: “On Saturday Italy’s entire football programme was abruptly called off after the death of Piermario Morosini, a man in his prime: there is a spectrum of risk in most sporting exertion.” What McGrath fails to mention though is the fact that Morosini made the decision to pursue a football career himself. But did those horses agree to racing? Did they want to take to the racetrack and entertain people? What confuses me time and time again is the way that people feel that they have the right to decide these kind of things for animals that would otherwise be happy in their natural environment.
I don’t believe for a second that these animals are abused or treated badly. They can’t be if they’re being used to compete in front of a large audience, especially where bets are being placed. I’m sure they’re pampered and well taken care of. My concern however goes towards the way people are engaged and are getting excited by sport involving animals exerting themselves to the brink of their capabilities. And it isn’t just limited to horse racing, it also includes bull fighting in Spain, dog racing, fox hunting and even camel wrestling, which takes place in Turkey.
Calling it a part of a country’s heritage may well be enough for some people to decide against scrapping such sports altogether but really, what are you losing out if you retire them? Are you losing such a large amount of culture through racing horses and placing bets that nothing can really represent what you stand for quite like Aintree?
I’m sure that if a sport resulted in people dying repetitively it wouldn’t be a matter of “how can we make this sport safer so the same thing doesn’t happen again?” but more like “we can’t afford to put people at risk”. So why don’t we take the some approach to animals?
I’m disappointed that in this day and age people are more concerned with ‘glamming up’, getting snapped at such events and winning money rather than thinking about bigger issues like making a change and demanding that animals are not subjected to such pressurised situations. We all relish the thought of having a calm, easy-going life – what makes you think these creatures are any different?