“I always said he’d die for you…he’s gone doing what he loved.”

Screen Shot 2018-02-22 at 23.01.06Leighton Aspell riding Thoroughbred Many Clouds (left) in the Cotswold Chase, Cheltenham, 28/01/2017 [1].


A fatal Day at the Races

After winning the race, Many Clouds collapsed and died of a severe pulmonary haemorrhage (bleeding in air passages to the lung) [2]. According to Race Horse Death Watch, a website launched by the organisation Animal Aid to monitor horse fatalities in the UK; 1650 casualties have occurred since 2007[3].

Despite horse injuries and their destruction often being witnessed by attendees, horseracing remains in 2nd place for the UK’s highest attended spectator sports in 2016 with 7.4 million visitors [4]. While horseracing may be an appealing day out, examining individual cases like that of Many Clouds, highlights the exploitation of horses for human entertainment and the necessity for updated regulations and scientific research.


He didn’t know when to quit!”

Being a televised event, members of his team were interviewed following the announcement. An individual described Many Clouds as a “hard horse, that’s what was great about him…it was his downfall as well…he didn’t know when to quit” [5]. Others shared the sentiments of trainer Oliver Sherwood, declaring “I always said he’d die for you…he’s gone doing what he loved”. Thus, suggesting Many Clouds willingly exerted himself beyond his limits, fully comprehending the race, his purpose and with the intention to win for himself and his team [5].

As with several racecourse fatalities subjective claims such as “wanting to win” are offered as an explanation for the horse’s overexertion. These claims show horses are widely accepted as sentient beings, thus perceived as capable of experiencing, distress, fear and pain in addition to their ‘pleasure in winning’. Yet, minimal research in horse psychological and physiology, before, during and after races exists.

Wanting to win or fearing the Whip?

An alternative explanation for the horse’s death could be forced fatigue caused by the use of the whip. The controversial use of the whip is often defended with remarks such as “horses’ have thicker skin” proposing they don’t feel the pain as humans do. An opinion refuted by a comparison study of skin from a horse’s flank area and human’s. Findings presents horses’ as possessing thinner epidermis, therefore, less cells between the painful stimuli (whip) and their sensory fibres. Also, via immunohistochemistry (staining of nerve endings) displayed a higher number of nerve endings in horses’ epidermis where the pain reception occurs [6].  

In 2011, the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) commissioned a review of the whip in cooperation with: World Horse Welfare and Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals [7]. The review states use of the equipment as for purposes of ‘safety, correction and encouragement’ [7]. Also, declaring that if used correctly, should be painless to the animal. The report acknowledges previous failures in regulating the use and recommends that to prevent the counterproductive use of the whip, jockeys and trainers may require more recent training in learning theories to promote proper “encouragement” rather than punishment. Additionally, the proposed regulations halved the number of times a jockey may whip during a race and restricted distances in which whipping can occur (whipping is common to become more frequent after the final jump). Furthermore, the enforcement of financial penalties and riding suspensions for those who breached the regulations were advised [7].

However, reports since 2011 show a reversion to old habits. Amendments were made to the proposed regulations to lessen penalties and reduce the whip restrictions as a result of jockey strikes [8]. Also, the presence wealed horses (an accumulation of fluid in the skin as a reaction to a hit from a whip) running continued to be reported [7] with increases in regulation breaches were recorded as high as 524 times in 2017 [8]. Hence, showing that the use of the whip and overall equine welfare is implicated by training for and participating events.


Ban the whip?

While banning the whip (and horseracing altogether!) would appear ideal to some, if the whip is necessary for safety as reported, the issue may lie with the judging of use of the whip. Improper use can be declared by a steward employed by the BHA who monitors the jockeys during races. Improper use is defined in vague terms by the BHA and enforcement is left to their personal subjectivity [9].  Hence, Animal Aid have motioned a petition for an independent regulatory board to better assess equine welfare [10]. 


How you can help:

  • Sign the petition.

  • Do not attend events or bet on equine events, as this financially supports and raises demand for the industry.




  1. Crowhurst, A. (2017). Many Clouds and Thistleback, Cotswold Chase, Cheltenham. 28 Jan. Available at: https://www.gettyimages.co.uk/license/632904078 [accessed 22 Feb . 2018].
  2. British Horseracing Authority. (2017). Many clouds post mortem concluded. 30 Jan. Available at: https://www.britishhorseracing.com/press_releases/many-clouds-post-mortem-concluded/ [accessed 22 Feb. 2018].
  3. Animal Aid. (2018a). Race horse death watch. Available at: http://www.horsedeathwatch.com/index.php [accessed 22 Feb. 2018].
  4. Deloitte. (2016). 70m tickets sold for UK sports event. 14 Dec. Available at: https://www2.deloitte.com/uk/en/pages/press-releases/articles/70m-tickets-sold-for-uk-sports-event.html [accessed 22 Feb. 2018].
  5. Racing UK. (2017). Many clouds tragedy at Cheltenham – racing UK. 30 Jan. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IOSHAgZ3_6w [accessed 22 Feb. 2018].
  6. Tong, L. (2015). Using science to answer the question: does whipping hurt horses? Available at: http://www.abc.net.au/catalyst/download/Horse_Whipping_report_Dr_Lydia_Tong.pdf [accessed 22 Feb. 2018].
  7. British Horseracing Authority. (2011). Responsible regulation: a review of the use of the whip in horseracing. Sep. Available at: https://www.britishhorseracing.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/WhipReview.pdf [accessed 22 Feb. 2018].
  8. Animal Aid. (2018b). Animal aid’s campaign to ban the whip. Available at: https://www.animalaid.org.uk/the-issues/our-campaigns/horse-racing/animal-aids-campaign-ban-whip/ [accessed 22 Feb. 2018].
  9. British Horseracing Authority. (2016). Schedule 6 – causing interference and improper use of the whip. 01 Jan. Available at: http://rules.britishhorseracing.com/Orders-and-rules%26staticID=126403%26depth=3?zoom_highlight=whip [accessed 22 Feb. 2018].
  10. Pereira, F. (2018). Petitions: create a new independent welfare body to protect racehorse abuse and death. Available at: https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/211950 [accessed 22 Feb. 2018].


Take action for post-Brexit animal welfare, in the interest of animals and human health.

J L Wells

Brexit debates regarding animal welfare are raising concerns for future trading of food animals as the majority of Britain’s ‘high standards’ are a result of European Union (EU) legislation. The writing of the EU withdrawal Bill threatens such standards. With the lack of common regulations across non-EU countries, there comes a risk of encouraging rather than challenging the trading of animals and products reared in insufficient environments and which experience a life of unnecessary suffering before slaughter. Engaging in ‘cheap’ deals with non-EU countries not only compromises the treatment of food animals but also, may increase the presence of antimicrobial resistance (AMR), a public health concern.

Screen Shot 2017-11-23 at 16.24.45

Recent headlines encapsulate public disappointment in the MPs rejection to transferring Article 13 from the Lisbon Treaty into the EU withdrawal bill [1]. The amendment clause presented (NC30) aims to retain the recognition of animals as sentient beings (a principle unspecified in the UK’s critical legislative piece, the 2006 Animal Welfare Act [2]). Article 13 requires those employed in all aspects of agriculture to follow regulations and ‘pay full regard to the welfare requirements of animals’ thus, acknowledging animal’s ability to feel pain, emotions and suffer in similar ways to humans [3].

Animal sentience is partially responsible for the UK’s ‘world-leading’ welfare standards and regulations [4]. Without these minimum measures being “enshrined in law” there is a possibility, they will be “bargained or negotiated away” for a better deal” [5] with countries outside of the EU like the USA and China.

The addition of antimicrobials into the feed of food animals is a ‘cost-effective’ method which negatively affects animal welfare and is predicted to endanger the lives of up to 10million people annually, by 2050 due to the rise of antibiotic-resistant infections [6]. While the use of antimicrobials may be appropriate for the treatment of diseases (therapeutic use) and therefore relieve the suffering of sick animals; in intensive farming systems, antimicrobials are unregulated, easily accessible and excessively distributed outside of the EU [7&8]. Antibiotics are common in the farming of broiler chickens, with the intentions to prevent diseases (prophylactic) and to aid ‘growth promotion’ (non-therapeutic) [7&8].

Screen Shot 2017-11-23 at 20.36.07Inside of a broiler chicken shed, image from CIWF: Google Images [9].

Due to selective breeding and the use of growth-promoting antibiotics, the feed conversion ratio is reduced by a substantial 40% in addition to the time between hatching and achieving slaughter weight being halved in the last 30 years [10]. As a result of the rapid growth and selective breeding, the chickens suffer significant and unnatural difficulties. For instance, more weight is carried in the breast muscles, causing an imbalance, therefore placing stress on their legs and joints making standing and walking strenuous. Statistics show that at only 6 weeks old, chickens would spend around 80% of their time laying down and suffered a mortality rate, 7 times higher than laying hens [10].

Additionally, the chances of the following conditions are increased:

  • ruptured tendons and ligaments
  • lameness related to the abnormal bone development and infectious diseases that deteriorate the bones like Femoral Head Necrosis caused by a bacterial infection (e.g. E. coli and streptococci)
  • degenerative diseases such as osteoarthritis
  • heart disease

Screen Shot 2017-11-23 at 21.36.30Image of a chicken laying in pain taken from the Compassion in World Farmings 2005 report [10].

Broiler chickens and other food animals spend their lifetime in basic settings containing only feeders and litter. Also, they lack natural light, ventilation and space due to high stocking densities thus, the environment they are kept in is suitable for the production and spread of the diseases the antibiotics aim to prevent. Hence, it is suggested that the food animals become ‘healthy carriers’ as they appear to suit the minimum requirements for slaughter but carry hidden infections [6]. According to Animal Aid, the presence of Zoonotic foodborne infections such as Salmonella in ‘healthy carriers’ are ‘contributing to the 5000 deaths a year in England alone’ as a result of humans developing resistant bloodstream infections’ [6].

Screen Shot 2017-11-23 at 20.46.28

World Health Organization’s (2011) Figure 4. above illustrates the epidemiological context in which antibiotics are used and can spread in addition to portraying how closely connected animals, the products they produce and humans are, whether you are a carnivore, vegetarian or vegan [11].


Participate in the preservation of high welfare standards!

  1. Sign the petition [12]
  2. Contact MPs [13]
  3. Consider and/or adapting your diet vegetarian [17] or vegan [18]
  4. Purchase animal products with higher welfare labels [14, 15 & 16].



  1. Chiorando, M. (2017) MPs voted that ‘animals have no sentience’ – why? And what does this mean?. 21 Nov. Available at: https://www.plantbasednews.org/post/mps-voted-animals-no-sentience [accessed 21 Nov. 2017].
  2. AWA (2006) Animal Welfare Act. Available at: http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2006/45/pdfs/ukpga_20060045_en.pdf [accessed 19 Nov. 2017].
  3. (2009) Lisbon Treaty, Article 13. Available at: http://www.lisbon-treaty.org/wcm/the-lisbon-treaty/treaty-on-the-functioning-of-the-european-union-and-comments/part-1-principles/title-ii-provisions-having-general-application/155-article-13.html [accessed 19 nov. 2017].
  4. Hansard (2017) House of Commons Hansard, Brexit: environmental and animal welfare standards. 20 Jul. Available at: https://hansard.parliament.uk/Commons/2017-07-20/debates/3087E6DC-8EB6-4DFD-9B0E-AFE3C1968BB0/BrexitEnvironmentalAndAnimalWelfareStandards [accessed 19 Nov. 2017].
  5. Theyworkforyou (2017) EU protocol on animal sentience. 15 Nov. Available at: https://www.theyworkforyou.com/debates/?id=2017-11-15b.475.0&p=11923#g507.2 [accessed 19 Nov. 2017].
  6. AnimalAid (2017) Antibiotics awareness. 20th Available at: https://www.animalaid.org.uk/antibiotics-awareness/ [accessed 21 Nov.2017].
  7. CIWF (2011) Compassion in world farming report: antibiotics in farm animal production: public health and animal welfare.1-43.
  8. Hirst, D., Baker, J. & Pratt, A. (2017) Animal welfare standards in farming after the UK leaves the EU. House of commons library. 1-32.
  9. CIWF, (2017) Google image search: intensive broiler chickens. Available at: https://www.google.co.uk/search?client=firefox-b-ab&dcr=0&biw=1152&bih=606&tbm=isch&sa=1&ei=8i0YWtP7GIaBacjQgfAH&q=Broiler+chickens+shed&oq=Broiler+chickens+shed&gs_l=psy-ab.3…3111.3747.0.3938.….0…1c.1.64.psy-ab..0.2.170…0j0i30k1j0i5i30k1j0i8i30k1j0i24k1.0.nsM6-qMMUmY#imgrc=pTJSs43FN5BM1M: [accessed 21 November 2017].
  10. CIWF Trust (2005) Compassion in world farming report: the welfare of broiler chickens in the European Union. 1-35.
  11. WHO (2011) World health organization: tackling antibiotic resistance from a
food safety perspective in Europe.1-88.
  12. Faulkner, J. (2017) Repeal the government decision to exclude animal sentience in the EU Withdrawal Bill. Available at: https://www.change.org/p/uk-parliament-repeal-the-government-decision-to-exclude-animal-sentience-in-the-eu-withdrawal-bill [accessed 21 Nov. 2017].
  13. RSPCA (2017) Animals are not objects: Take action. Available at: https://www.rspca.org.uk/getinvolved/campaign/sentientbeings/takeaction [accessed 21 Nov. 2017].
  14. LM(2017) Labelling matters: Misleading labels hinder your right, as a customer, to make an informed choice on your meat and dairy purchases. Available at: https://labellingmatters.org/ [accessed 21 Nov. 2017].
  15. CIWF (2017) Compassion in world farming: Know your labels. Available at: https://www.ciwf.org.uk/your-food/know-your-labels/ [accessed 21 Nov. 2017].
  16. FNF (2017) Farms not factories: Use the power of your purse to buy from real farms, not animal factories. Available at: http://farmsnotfactories.org/resources/labelling/ [accessed 21 Nov. 2017].
  17. Animal Aid (2017) Animal aid: veggie Guide to Good Nutrition wallchart. Available at: https://www.animalaid.org.uk/education/education-resources/veggie-wallchart/ [accessed 21 Nov. 2017].
  18. Vegan Society (2017) The vegan society: take the vegan pledge. Available at: https://www.vegansociety.com/go-vegan/take-vegan-pledge [accessed 21 Nov. 2017].