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Steeplechasing (Cruelty)

Volume 526: debated on Thursday 15 April 1954

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17.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he is aware of the abhorrence with which the present form of Steeplechasing is regarded; and if he will introduce legislation to facilitate the prosecution for cruelty to animals of promoters of this type of sport.

26.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will institute an inquiry into the risks of injury and death involved for horses in organised steeplechase races.

28.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will cause an investigation to be made into the conditions under which steeplechases are run, with a view to establishing whether any element of cruelty is involved to the horses engaged.

My right hon. and learned Friend has no responsibility in this matter, regulation of the conditions under which Steeplechasing takes place being a matter for the authorities responsible for the conduct of the sport. While he greatly regrets the death of four horses at Aintree on 27th March, he does not think that a committee appointed by the Government would serve any useful purpose.

Is my hon. Friend aware that I asked about amending legislation? Can he tell the House whether he has considered a prosecution in connection with the Grand National under existing legislation and, if so, with what result? To satisfy himself about the rising indignation felt at this carnage and slaughter of horses, will he visit a cinema and see the current newsreel of the Grand National and hear for himself the horror with which the audience view the showing of this year's Grand National?

My right hon. and learned Friend is inviting the National Hunt Committee to discuss the matter with him on Wednesday, 28th April, and as my hon. Friend has already given notice that he will raise it on the Adjournment on 29th April, I think these matters might better be discussed then.

Is my hon. Friend aware that there is a great deal of feeling about this matter, not only among the general public, but among racegoers, who feel that this particular racecourse is not fair to courageous horses and that, apart from improvements to the course itself, there is a great deal to be said for limiting this race to horses of proved quality which have gained at least first or second place in steeplechases of recognised standing?

If it is proved that cruelty arises from this kind of race, is it not the responsibility of the Home Secretary to take action to ensure that it is stopped?

As I said, my right hon. and learned Friend is to discuss this matter with the National Hunt Committee. I think that, pending that discussion, it would not be right to express an opinion on the matter.

Is my hon. Friend aware that people who have practical experience of the training and riding of steeplechase horses, in the Grand National and elsewhere, do not agree that there is any cruelty involved, that they have absolute confidence in the decisions and wisdom of the National Hunt Committee, that conditions are already laid down such as my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Norfolk, Central (Brigadier Medlicott) has suggested, which limit the entry of horses to those which have won races of a certain character? If steeplechasing were abolished, a great many of the horses now used for this purpose would become meat.