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The savage whipping of racehorses is barbaric and cruel and must be banned immediately

Letter of the day: CHELTENHAM debate

"Oh! Pray do not whip your good horse anymore; I am sure he is doing all he can." So wrote Anna Sewell in her classic novel, Black Beauty.

Some 140 years later, the whipping of horses - incredibly - continues. Once condemned as barbaric and indefensible by racing pundit John McCririck, it can be seen this week in Cheltenham as horses are pushed to their limits, sometimes resulting in horrific injuries and death.

There was shock and disgust this time last year when seven horses died at the event.

Most are unaware, however, that this is only a small fraction of fatalities.

In 2016, for example, at least 136 thoroughbreds (including 76 from Ireland) died at British racetracks.

So far this year, 34 have lost their lives (19 of them Irish), some with broken necks, some falling and not getting up and others destroyed after sustaining painful leg, knee or spinal injuries.

The 10-year-old Many Clouds is one of the latest Irish victims. In January, he collapsed at the end of a 21-obstacle, 3.2-mile race at the Cheltenham track. According to Animal Aid, which maintains the Race Horse Death Watch website, he was "raced to death".

Animal Aid has documented over 1,500 deaths at UK tracks in the past decade, noting that even more horses are killed due to training injuries.

Those following the Cheltenham Festival should consider another of Anna Sewell's famous quotes: "If we see cruelty, or wrong, that we have the power to stop, and do nothing, we make ourselves sharers in the guilt."


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