GRAND NATIONAL OR “DAMNED” NATIONAL?
Taking account of the history of the Grand National, i.e. the catalogue of death and injury caused to the horses “ forced” to take part, should this “accursed” event be stricken from the Sporting calendar?
Inevitably there will be those, such as Mr Paul Nicholls the trainer of this years’ winner, who will advocate the “Nationals’” continuance on the grounds that “When you are in competitive sport, whatever you do – motor racing, hockey – there is an element of risk”. Mr Nicholls goes on to say “We take risks in everything we do in our lives, every single day. All those people watch it [the Grand National] because they enjoy watching the sport”. Is Mr Nicholls seriously saying that it is acceptable to risk the lives of horses and riders provided people enjoy themselves? Does he also justify “bull-fights”, “dog-fights” etc. by the same criteria?
Mr Nicholls, with breath-taking arrogance, then further states ”Sport is risk. If people are going to continue to participate in sport, there is going to be both a human and animal risk. We have to live with that and get on with it. We have to grow up, basically. A lot of people have to grow up and realise that it is life and get on with it”. There speaks a man who is not the one taking the risks. How dare he infer that people who express their concern about the safety of those participating in the Grand National, animal or human, have to “grow up and realise that [risk] is life and get on with it”. Unlike Mr Nicholls there are those of us who do not agree that the risk of death or injury to animal or human is somehow justified by the pleasure and enjoyment of the spectator.
To deliberately put a horse into a position of danger where there is a high risk of death or serious injury is an act of cruelty. To repeatedly strike a horse with a whip is an act of cruelty. To force a horse to do something by inflicting pain or fear is an act of cruelty. Were greyhounds at a sporting event subjected to acts of cruelty people would be outraged and no doubt those responsible would be prosecuted.
There are those who argue that horses enjoy the thrill of the race, proven by the fact that they continue, riderless after falling, to run and jump. I would rebut that assumption by pointing out that horses are naturally a herd animal and they instinctively chase after the other horses to re-join the herd.
The more successful a horse is the greater it is penalised by the imposition of a weight handicap making it an even more gruelling test of its ability to safely negotiate the course.
Should the Grand National be banned? I believe it should simply because the loss of life and injury caused to the horses is too high a price to pay.