Animal rights group call for a National boycott

Animal Aid, one of the country's principal campaigning groups for animal rights, yesterday called for the media and sponsors to boycott the Grand National meeting after the four deaths on the first afternoon of the three-day Aintree Festival.

Animal Aid, one of the country's principal campaigning groups for animal rights, yesterday called for the media and sponsors to boycott the Grand National meeting after the four deaths on the first afternoon of the three-day Aintree Festival.

The same group, whose patrons include Spike Milligan and the author Richard Adams, recently launched a campaign to persuade once-a-year punters to boycott office sweeps on the National. They will also distribute leaflets outside a number of betting shops in the run-up to tomorrow's race.

In a statement, Animal Aid said that "the Grand National and associated races are immense money earners, thanks to media hype and support from high-powered sponsors. It is now time for all those responsible for promoting the event to withdraw their support. The alternative is yet more needless suffering and death."

Three of yesterday's fatalities, Strong Promise, Rossell Island and Architect, were the result of falls. The fourth horse to die, Lake Kariba, suffered a heart attack a few minutes after completing the course in the Martell Cup.

Andrew Tyler, the director of Animal Aid, said yesterday evening that he believed that "as well as the moral objection there is also a potential legal objection" to the meeting.

"There is a basic animal-protection law in this country," Tyler said, "the 1911 Protection of Animals Act. This protects animals from unnecessary suffering, and this event puts animals through unnecessary suffering, so it represents a breach of the criminal law.

"Either that act means something or it doesn't. Every year we know there is a reasonable chance that animals will die. The harm and suffering are predictable. Given the record of the three-day event, there is a prima facie case for prosecution of the organisers and participants."

Two other horses, Bounce Back and Merry Path, were injured during racing yesterday. The total of four fatalities in a single day is thought to be the worst since 10 horses died in the course of the three-day Cheltenham Festival four years ago.

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