On the Pulse: Is horse racing cruel?


Cheltenham Festival has been marred by the deaths of five horses this week.


By Charlene Cole

The Cheltenham Festival has been marred by the deaths of five horses within its opening two days.

Four of the horses sustained broken legs and were subsequently put down, whilst the other died following a race.

Despite the introduction of new safety measurements six years ago, the deaths make this year’s festival the second biggest loss to date.

Animal rights groups and charities alike have condemned horse racing, with some even calling for its ban or at least a review of its safety procedures.

Competitive sports always come with risk; none are 100 per cent risk free. But the tragedies have sparked another debate around the horse racing world bringing the issue of cruelty to the forefront.

We took to the streets of Wimbledon to find out:

In light of these events do you think that horse racing is cruel?








Don’t know



“I’m not sure if cruelty is the right word. Racehorses are expensive so they must be taken care of because they are an investment for their owners. Also with the training, stable costs and things like that I can’t see where cruelty comes in.”

Roy Thompson, 68


“I think that it’s disgusting the horses would not be dead if it wasn’t for the owners trying to make money from them. They must be exhausted and overworked from all the training and the whipping; they’re pushed to the limit.  So the owners caused it, they’re to blame.”

Deena Carty, 25


“To be honest I think those animals are well cared for. I think probably better than most horses. The idea of whipping is the cruel thing; you have to think how much a man can hurt a horse. However it’s when you get into the Grand National that’s where a lot of horses are seriously hurt. I heard of a situation a few years ago – a horse was drugged before a race and was allowed to run, which is wrong. On the whole it’s not cruel but the jumping events are – I don’t think they’re necessary.

They limit the number of whips but you just get a couple of days ban at a time. They need to make the bans and fines heavier. But I think the real cruelty in horse racing is what’s happening behind the scenes, what they’re putting into the horses – drugs that kind of thing. When you’re making an unfit horse run that’s where the problems lie too. But on the whole they’re well cared for.”

John Shiels, 27


“I don’t think it’s cruel at all. It’s sad when the horses have to be put down but it’s more humane to stop their suffering if you ask me.”

Andy Pandetti, 31


“I have no reason to believe it is a cruel sport but then I don’t have that much information to think otherwise. So I’m neutral.”

Charlie Johnson, 39


“I grew up with horses in Ireland. I never like to see jockeys whipping the horses, so I think that that aspect of racing is cruel. But overall the sport I don’t think is intentionally cruel.”

Yvonne Gill, 37


“It’s not something that I feel strongly about. But cruelty would imply they are hurt deliberately which I wouldn’t have thought they are.”

Sam O’Hanlon, 29


“I’m not a horse race fan and I’m not sure whose fault it was, who is to blame. But I do not see it as a form of animal cruelty. Cruelty is more like animal testing. Maybe they can do something to make the sport safer. I don’t get the impression that it is something that they set out to do; owners don’t want harm to come to their animals.”

Sarah Peters, 32


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