Why I Will Never Support the Grand National

The Grand National is an annual horseracing event held in Aintree which is just up the road from where I live. It has been going since 1839 and is over 4 miles long with 30 fences. The Grand National is one of the most popular horse racing events and it is estimated that around 600 million people watch it all over the world. It has previously been known as one of the most intense and difficult tracks for horses to run and this was one of its main selling points. Over time the race has apparently become more focussed on the welfare of the horses running it. Many of the more dangerous fences have been altered so that they are safer (much to the disgust of many horse racing fans) and vets have been made more available. Despite these changes many animal rights campaigners and horse lovers campaign for the Grand National to be banned every year.

Why? Because over the past 50 years at least 36 horses have died because of the race.

That’s 36 horses that have died for our entertainment.

36 horses that have died so that we can have a cheeky bet.

There are problems with the course which even Grand National fans will admit. These include fences that are too demanding and catch horses out, the crowded field of 40 runners and the extreme length of the race. In fact over the last 10 years only 37% of the horses have finished the race. There are also arguments about the age of the horses, how prepared they are for the race, the number of runners and much more. I could go into a lot of detail about ways the Grand National has been improved and ways it still needs improving. This would be a waste of time. Let’s go back to that all important number. 36 horses.

It all comes back to the fact that animals should not be put in danger just for our entertainment. I already know what some of the arguments will be from the lovers of this race.

“The horses enjoy it”

“The jockeys care about the horses”

“They’re not in that much danger”

It is inherently wrong that horses be raced at all, never mind in conditions like these. The truly believe that the horses do enjoy it at least some of the time but that doesn’t change the fact that they are being exploited for our pleasure. The jockeys probably do care about the horses but they are still exploiting them. It doesn’t matter if the danger has decreased over the years, there is still danger there.

That is why I cannot support the Grand National.

For more information please read the fact file put together by Animal Aid. It is an interesting read!

Another useful website is Horse Deathwatch which lists all of the horse fatalities since 2007. It is scary reading!

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Uproar about eating horse meat… why?

I’ve been reading the news that horse meat has been found in burgers being sold in Tesco, Aldi, Lidl and Iceland and the uproar it has caused.

I’d be the first person to say that horses should not be eaten. Then again, I say the same thing about cows, chickens, turkeys, lambs and pigs (not to mention fish and seafood). What I don’t understand is why people are so annoyed that there is horse meat in their food when they are eating a processed patty of dead animal on their burger buns anyway. What’s the difference between eating cow (which, by the way, is probably the grizzly horrible bits of the cow that nobody wants seeing as these are value burgers) and eating horse?

Just my mini rant for the day. What do you guys think? I’d love to hear from a meat eater about why they feel this way!

Harvesting Spider Silk

I watched a video this morning on The Guardian website where a group of people have perfected extracting silk from a spider of the species Nephila edulis. The video can be found here – http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/video/2013/jan/12/fritz-vollrath-spider-silk-video.

My first reaction to this was disgust as I thought the spider had been killed. It turns out the spider was not dead but just sedated with carbon dioxide. My second question was what possible reason could there be? Fritz Vollrath is the scientist behind these experiments. He says that he would use the silk for medical reasons “for anything from knee replacements to heart transplants”.

My only worry really is that nowhere does it mention whether the spider is in discomfort (which it obviously would be) and what measures have been taken to minimise this. As a Zoology graduate I know that this will probably have been considered and measures will be in place. I think these should be explained in the video or article.

Another thought springs to mind. The number of people who hate spiders means that if these spiders were being treated badly the sympathy level would be extremely low. It seems that animals must be fluffy and cute for people to react to their pain. I myself consider all animals to be of equal importance and think that no animal should be caused discomfort or pain for our benefit.

What do you think? Should animals be used for human benefit or do they deserve more respect?

Genetically modifying cows so they produce allergy free milk?

I mean seriously? I thought this was a joke when I first read about it in yesterday’s newspaper. 

For a start I think drinking cows milk is really weird. I know that most people do not agree with me but drinking another animal’s milk is just not natural. That milk is produced for calves not for human babies (or human adults for that matter). Would you drink milk from a cat or a dog? I didn’t think so.

I have to look at dairy farming from an animal cruelty point of view as well. Many people say that milking a cow actually helps the animal because if you didn’t get rid of the excess milk in the cows body then it would be in pain. I’m not buying it. Cows (like humans) produce enough milk to feed their calves. Have you ever wondered why cows constantly produce this milk? Calves are taken from their mothers when they are born, causing stress to both individuals. Female calves are either killed or kept to grow and be dairy cows. Male calves are put in stalls so that veal can be produced (a whole other animal welfare issue). All this so we can have milk in our coffee.

Anyway, I digress! The reason scientists are genetically modifying cows is that many children are allergic to certain proteins in the milk. I do not find this a very good reason to fool around with a cow’s genes. There are a whole range of milks out there that are not only free of these proteins but are better for both the environment and the animal. Off the top of my head there are soya, almond, hazelnut, coconut, rice, oat… the list goes on. 

Apparently the genetically modified milk actually contains more of the other proteins found in milk which are also harmful to a large percentage of the population. Another reason why it is a waste of time!

Surely it is more beneficial to encourage people who cannot digest milk to drink a healthier, more environmentally friendly alternative which will cause them no harm?