Animal rights protesters are to blame for a race horse’s death at the British Grand National, his trainer has claimed.
On Saturday, Hill Sixteen fell at the first fence and sustained an "unrecoverable injury"; two other horses also had to be taken away in a horse ambulance for further assessment.
The event had to be delayed because of protests by the campaign group Animal Rising; 118 people were arrested by police and trainer Sandy Thompson told The Hard Shoulder the disruption had upset the horses.
“Hill Sixteen had jumped round Aintree twice… he was well used to the fences,” he said.
“The statistics show the fences were modified nine years ago and in that nine years an average of under two horses fell or were unseated at the first and second fence.
“On Saturday, there were eight horses who either fell or were unseated and this was purely because… it got very fraught because of these protestors.”
Animal Rising spokesperson Orla Coghlan expressed her condolences to Mr Thomson for the death of Hill Sixteen but said they were not to blame for the horse’s demise.
“I think the protestors bear absolutely no responsibility for this death,” she said.
“I want to be really clear that frankly it is a scandal for the horse racing industry to try and deflect the blame for the horrors that are going on.
“We know that three horses died over the weekend, we know there have been 49 other deaths in British horse racing since the beginning of the year.
“And last year at the Grand National, four horses died - are we to blame for those?”
Mr Thomson said only a “very small proportion” of horses die and the racing industry is working to improve safety.
“We’re changing this all the time and it’s very sad [when] horses unfortunately die,” he said.
“We don’t want it to happen but we cannot guarantee that when you have a race meeting horses [won’t] die.”
Animal Rising believes horse racing should be banned and Ms Coughlan said the group would continue to disrupt the industry’s events.
“We believe that most good people really care about animals [and] really care about horses,” she said.
“I don’t doubt that Sandy Thomson loves the horses he looks after - but I don’t think our actions are in line with our values.
“I don’t think a horse dying every other day in racing in Britain… I don’t think that’s acceptable and I don’t think that’s a true sign of caring for animals.”
Horse racing is worth €1.84 billion to the Irish economy and supports 29,000 jobs.
Main image: Hill Sixteen. Picture by: Alamy.com