Grand National delayed as animal rights protesters breach security's 'ring of fire' and invade racecourse

15 April 2023, 17:19 | Updated: 15 April 2023, 19:12

Grand National delayed as animal rights protesters breach security's 'ring of fire' and invade racecourse
Grand National delayed as animal rights protesters breach security's 'ring of fire' and invade racecourse. Picture: getty

By Danielle DeWolfe

The start of the Grand National has been delayed after animal rights protesters breached security's 'ring of steel' and invaded the racecourse using ladders.

Protesters could be seen attempting to tie themselves to a fence before being forcibly removed from the course by police, as locals were seen aiding police in detaining the activists.

The news follows the arrest of three people earlier in the day, with a man and two women being detained at Aintree ahead of the rumoured plans to halt the Grand National.

The Animal Rising group shared on social media that demonstrators had run onto the track, "delaying the race indefinitely".

However, race preparation by jockeys and horses continues despite the disruption.


Protesters gather outside Aintree

A 25-year-old woman from London was arrested at about 11.20am on Saturday while a man was arrested around 30 minutes later.

Another woman, aged 33, from the London area, was arrested in Greater Manchester earlier on Saturday in connection with potential co-ordinated disruption activities at Aintree racecourse.

The protesters added on Twitter: "In the UK alone, 49 horses have died or been killed so far this year due to horseracing: this is unacceptable,"

"We are a nation of animal lovers - we shouldn't be harming animals for entertainment, food or any other reason. It's time to create a kinder future."

Activists also said they would block traffic by performing a slow march along Ormskirk Road, the main access route.

Around 30 animal rights protesters gathered outside Aintree Racecourse on Saturday morning.

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Animal Rising at Aintree

Speaking to LBC, one independent protester said: "We're here today because this is a long overdue barbarity that should have been outdated so long ago.

"Horses are flight animals - they're not running because they love it."

Another person demonstrating outside the racecourse added: "It's systematic - people are encouraged to attend these events and constantly abuse animals in this way.

"We need systematic change, we need to reconnect with nature, with animals and rebond again.

She continued: "If they did really know all the hardship, the suffering and the abuse that these lovely beings go through for this event I hope they would feel the same way."

Protesters outside the racecourse
Protesters outside the racecourse. Picture: LBC

Dora Hargitai, 37, a volunteer with Animal Rising, said: "I do believe we can have non-violence on both sides.

"The race has to stop. Today and forever."

Claudia Penna Rojas, from the same group, said: "We will be slow marching around the perimeter and at some point we may peacefully try to make our way towards the track, again to prevent this race from happening because we know horses are being harmed."

She added that if activists did get onto the track it would not be while horses were running because they did not want to put them in danger.

Police have said they have a "robust" plan in place and are working with Aintree's owners to prepare for any chaos that ensues.

A spokesperson for Merseyside Police said: "Merseyside Police has a robust policing plan in place for Aintree, as it does for any major public event, to ensure the safety and wellbeing of everyone involved.

"We have been working with our partners, including The Jockey Club, for a number of months in the build-up to this year's festival to ensure that any necessary plans and processes are in place to deal with any incidents that may arise and to prevent any significant or ongoing disruption to racegoers and local residents and businesses.

"We respect the right to peaceful protest and expression of views, but public order or criminal offences will not be tolerated and will be dealt with robustly."

Protesters outside the racecourse
Protesters outside the racecourse. Picture: LBC

One horse has died at the Grand National Festival - Envoye Special, ridden by James King - after it fell in the Foxhunters' Chase just after 4pm on Thursday.

It is the 60th horse to die at Aintree in the past 23 years.

An Aintree Racecourse spokesperson said: "We respect the right to peaceful protest but sincerely hope that Animal Rising reflect on whether their proposed actions are legitimate and responsible.

"Their actions could endanger the horses they purport to protect, as well as jockeys, officials and themselves.

"As you would expect, we are working closely with Merseyside Police to ensure we protect the safety and enjoyment of everyone, including all participants, human or equine, at the Grand National."