I want to give you some names.
Kingfisher Creek. Provident Spirit. Properus. Clonbanan Lad. Marasonnien. Minella Recption. Gullinbursti.
Sound familar? Probably not. But these are the names of seven horses who have died this week in UK horse racing. At Ascot, Doncaster and Aintree. Three fatally wounded, two collapsed and died after the race and two who fell and died during the race.
From the time that Animal Aid began their record, some nine years ago, 1378 horses have died in UK horse racing. That is 3, every single week.
Tomorrow is the Grand National. The nation's past time. Families get together and play bets every year. Workplaces have sweepstakes. There are "jokes" about who will get the one who came last, or died. Because we know that they die in the Grand National, we watch every year as it takes place.
The course is much safer they say. The horses would not race if they did not want to they say. But they cannot deny that in a race which is entered by the best race horses in the country, less than half have managed to complete the course in the past 3 years. In 2012, only 15 made it. As for the horse wanting to race, I am sure no one has ever managed to explain to them the odds of them dying, or that they will be beat with a mandatory whip whilst trying to get around the course.
Yes you did read that right. Riders in the Grand National are actually required to carry a whip in order to race.
I'm not going to show you photographs. Because we have all seen what happens. It is more a surprise when no horses die in the Grand National then when they do. But as the jockey Ruby Walsh said a couple of years ago "You can replace a horse".
They are not given value, they are just ever replaceable stock, without worth; especially when they are injured. When they die, as we saw in 2011, they are merely "obstacles in the way".
So what is so grand about the Grand National exactly? We dress it is as being the nation's past time. The one time a year that many ever place a bet. We talk about what people are wearing, we have "Ladies Day"; we glamorous this barbaric institution with family fun and champagne.
The interesting thing to note is that we describe ourselves as a nation of animal lovers. We recoil in horror at places like Spain with their bullfighting, calling it inhumane and disgusting. Yet we think nothing of the fact that we routinely kill 3 horses every single week in a sport that cares nothing for their safety.
Imagine if this was any other sport. Like football. Can you imagine players dribbling the ball around a dying Wayne Rooney? Theo Walcott being carried off on a stretcher and shot because his broken leg made him useless to the sport? People cheering as only half of the players made it through the game? People cheering as a player fell and broke his neck, because their favourite player was still in the game.
You will either place a bet tomorrow or you won't. My words will either affect you, or they won't. But my mission, as it has been every year on this blog, is to give you the facts, and let you make up your own mind.
I ask you a question, are we not better than this?