When Their Race Is Run, They Shoot Horses Don’t They?


Determined to improve the often-negative post-competitive reputation of the “Sport of Kings”, the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) has issued its final call for owners to complete Britain’s first-ever Thoroughbred Census.

To date, say the BHA, some 6,000 ex-racing thoroughbred horses have been registered in the census, which was launched on June 28.

Owners only have until the end of this year, December 31, to register their steeds.

“This is a once-in-a-decade piece of research,” affirmed Helena Flynn, Programme Director of the BHA’s Horse Welfare Board.

“[To date] we’ve had a hugely positive reception to the census. The people who own former racehorses are passionate about them and want to play their part in [assuring their welfare].

“We call on all owners who have not yet taken part to get involved. This is a unique opportunity to gather robust and insightful data that can help shape the post-racing lives of thoroughbreds in the future.”

The Thoroughbred Census has been given a guarded welcome by Britain’s top Animal Aid charity, who exposed a devastating picture of animal cruelty and slaughter of thousands of retired racehorses in a 2021 BBC documentary called “The Dark Side of Horse Racing”.

“It’s certainly a move in the right direction,” Dene Stansall, Horseracing Consultant for Animal Aid, told iGamingFuture.

“But the problem is that they are trying to categorise the welfare of the horse at the end of their racing lives and not at the beginning and during their racing career.

“Around 13,000 horses, bred on the mainland UK and the island of Ireland, enter racing each year.

“Until you address the breeding issue, you will never be able to assess the true fate of the horses.”

Knacker’s Yard

It’s estimated that some 7,500 thoroughbreds are retired from British Flat and National Hunt “Jump” racing every year.

Of these–according to the one and only survey on the issue ever conducted, by the BHA in 2008–some 1,000 go to the Knackerman or slaughterhouse.

The remainder find good homes, go to hunts, are exported, put to stud – or simply “disappear” without a trace.

It is this mystery that the BHA is hoping to solve with its Thoroughbred Census.

Launched in collaboration with research experts at Hartpury University, Gloucester–specialising in the agriculture, animal, equine, sport and veterinary nursing sectors–, the census will provide a picture of the country’s post-racing thoroughbred population, which the Horse Welfare Board and British Racing’s aftercare charity, Retraining of Racehorses, can use to improve animal welfare.

Flynn concluded: “Whether your horse is retired to a field or is an RoR champion, we want to hear your stories and learn more about the amazing lives former racehorses go on to enjoy after they retire from the sport.”

Following the 2021 Animal Aid/BBC Panorama documentary, the BHA responded by ensuring that no former racehorse sent to slaughter could then be sold for human consumption.

This latest initiative seeks to further shorten the animal rights winning post.

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