An animal rights campaigner has urged punters to boycott the Grand National ahead of the next month’s big event.
A flutter on the annual race is a popular option, with many who would not usually watch jump racing or bet attracted to the event.
But Anne Duvall is warning people to think twice before supporting the National Hunt race in which horses have to tackle 30 fearsome fences during two laps of Liverpool’s Aintree course.
She said: “It’s the chaps on their backs whipping them that makes them go forward.
“If they do not go faster, they get whipped harder and harder.
“Every year there are deaths and there are deaths in races around the country – and why?
“It should be banned and it should have been banned a long time ago.”
The course over which the Grand National is run is uniquely challenging, featuring much larger fences than other National Hunt venues.
Many of these fences – including Becher’s Brook, The Chair and the Canal Turn – have become famous in their own right.
These, combined with the extreme distance of the event, create what has been called ‘the ultimate test of horse and rider’.
But Mrs Duvall, who has been involved in animal rights for more than 40 years, said: “These horses do not have any choice, do they?
“They are bred for it and it’s all money-based, and if they do not earn their owners large amounts of money they are disposed of.”
The Grand National, which dates back to 1839, is now the most valuable jump race in Europe.
It is watched on TV by as many as 600 million people in more than 140 countries.
Despite numerous changes to the course and conditions during the past 50 years, 36 horses are known to have lost their lives competing in it.
Public outrage at the deaths of two horses, Ornais and Dooneys Gate, in 2011, put the spotlight on the race’s safety record.
It was again highlighted in 2012 when the favourite, Synchronised, and outsider According To Pete were both killed – but no horses died during last year’s running of the gruelling event.
Mrs Duvall, of Bank Mill Lane, Berkhamsted, says that while horses may run around on their own, it is only because they are pack animals.
She rejected the suggestion that horses are naturally competitive creatures.
She said: “Horses do not walk around thinking: ‘Yes, I may get killed at the end – but it’s worth it.
“They are treated as worthless objects and when they cannot make money, they are disposed of.
“They are beautiful creatures and they should be left alone. It’s just a money-making racket.”