The British Horseracing Authority (BHA) has issued a polite, but firm, rejection of an offer from the animal rights group Animal Rising to debate the merits of their sport on live television. Animal Rights offered the debate in exchange for a promise to stop disrupting horse racing events with protests aimed at pointing out the perceived cruelties of the sport.
Animal Rising has claimed responsibility for several recent disruptions of race events. Notably, the group caused a 15-minute delay of the Grand National at Aintree in April. An Animal Rising activist also disrupted the Epsom Derby last month.
Louisa Hillwood, an Animal Rising activist recently told the Guardian that disruption is only part of the group’s plan for ending horse racing in the UK. The other half of the plan involves dialogue, including the proposed (and rejected) debate plan.
“Our position with Ascot is that we have also reached out to start dialogue with them, to call on them to accept a televised debate with Animal Rising and until then we will not rule out the possibility of disruption. If the racing industry really believes in what they are doing, they should have no concerns about defending it publicly,” she said.
BHA chief Julie Harrington swiftly dismissed the thinly veiled blackmail offer saying, “Animal Rising have shown by their reckless actions at the Epsom Derby that their public promises cannot be trusted. They have demonstrated they are prepared to commit potentially unlawful acts and to directly threaten the safety of horses and people to generate publicity around their wider aims. These aims include the end of all use of animals by human beings. Once again I call on Animal Rising to end their reckless acts against a sport legally enjoyed by millions of people every year.”
Animal Rising has suggested that it would increase its protests if their debate offer was not accepted.