Used like Pawns or Treated like Kings? How Narratives around Racehorse Welfare in the 2023 Grand National May Affect Public Acceptance: An Informed Commentary

Gemma Pearson, Janet Douglas, Inga Wolframm, Tamzin Furtado

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

The 2023 Grand National steeplechase race was delayed when protesters from the animal rights group, ‘Animal Rising’, gained access to the course just prior to the race. The international media spotlight was focused on what is already a high-profile event and the social licence of both this race and racing in general was scrutinised. Both at the time and for several days afterwards, the general public was exposed to two different narratives from pro- and anti-racing communities.
This paper discusses these perspectives and the potential impact on the general public’s relationship with racing. Whilst well-meaning and aiming to promote racing, much of the racing industry’s commentary inadvertently risked damaging its reputation due to a poor understanding of social licence principles. We explore the reasons for these two groups’ alternative perspectives on welfare and suggest considerations for change. Ultimately, if ‘the people’s race’ is to maintain its social
licence, the racing community needs to both understand and embrace the concept. Welcoming independent opinions, engaging with different viewpoints, accepting that change is inevitable and, most importantly, being proactive in making changes to prioritise equine welfare will all help racing to move towards greater public acceptance.
Original languageEnglish
Article number3137
Pages (from-to)1-15
Number of pages15
JournalAnimals
Volume13
Issue number19
Early online date8 Oct 2023
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 8 Oct 2023

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • Grand National
  • racing
  • equine; welfare
  • equine
  • welfare
  • social licence
  • horse sport
  • human behaviour change

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