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‘We have nothing to hide’: Climate protesters plan to disrupt one of the world’s biggest horse races

Riders on the final day of the Grand National Festival horse race meeting at Aintree Racecourse in Liverpool in 2022.
Riders on the final day of the Grand National Festival horse race meeting at Aintree Racecourse in Liverpool in 2022. Copyright Oli SCARFF / AFP
Copyright Oli SCARFF / AFP
By Rosie Frost
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Animal Rebellion says their protest will start a conversation about our “broken relationship” with animals.

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Activists are planning to disrupt the Grand National at Aintree racecourse in Liverpool, UK.

An undercover investigation by the Mail on Sunday claimed that “up to 100” protesters from Animal Rebellion could break into the race.

The newspaper secretly filmed a “training” session for 11 activists from the group. It alleges that protesters discussed plans to climb the fence, glue themselves together and block the track before the horse race on 15 April.

The investigation also claims that leaders have identified weak points around Aintree where activists could use ladders or bolt cutters to gain access.

Activists still plan to disrupt the race despite the investigation

Animal Rebellion says it still intends to cause disruption to the race despite the investigation. The group stresses the urgent need to address our “broken relationship” with other animals and the natural world.

“Of course the initial reaction when we found out the plan had been published involved a level of shock, and we expect there will now be some additional challenges in carrying it out,” Claudia Penna-Rojas, Animal Rebellion volunteer and spokesperson, tells Euronews Green.

We openly organise because we have nothing to hide and are comfortable knowing our actions are morally just.
Claudia Penna-Rojas
Animal Rebellion volunteer and spokesperson

But she claims it’s a chance for the activists to have a “much bigger and necessary conversation with the world”. Animal Rebellion is now calling on thousands of animal lovers to join them outside Aintree racecourse on the 15 April and “make the issue unignorable”.

“We openly organise because we have nothing to hide and are comfortable knowing our actions are morally just,” Penna-Rojas adds.

Why do people protest at the Grand National?

“The Grand National is an event watched by animal lovers all around the world, over 600 million people. Yet we are watching these animals being whipped and raced to death,” Penna-Rojas claims.

The event has a huge global audience across more than 1,400 countries. Last year it attracted 7.5 million viewers in the UK at its peak and more than 12 million people placed bets on the race.

Last year, two horses died in the Grand National, which is the biggest event at the three-day racing festival. Four out of 356 runners have died since 2012 when new safety regulations were introduced.

OLI SCARFF/AFP
Racegoers watch during the Grand National Steeple Chase in April last year.OLI SCARFF/AFP

These deaths, alongside the large audience, are part of the reason why the Grand National has become a focus for animal rights activists in the past.

In a statement, Merseyside Police said that they “respect the right to peaceful protest and expression of views, but public order or criminal offences will not be tolerated and will be dealt with robustly.”

The police force adds that it has been working with The Jockey Club, which owns Aintree racecourse, “for a number of months” to ensure that “necessary plans and processes are in place to deal with any incidents that may arise”.

Part of a ‘much bigger campaign’

Penna-Rojas says the disruption of the Grand National “will not be a standalone event”.

“It is part of a much bigger campaign that will not just tackle horse racing as an issue but our overall broken relationship to animals and the natural world.

“We believe no animal should be exploited whether that’s for food or fun, including outdated practices people still call ‘sport’.”

Animal Rebellion claims that more than 500 people have signed up for training to take peaceful action this summer. They say the goal of this action is to create a “national conversation” around our relationship with animals and the natural world.

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