On 15th April 2023, 118 activists were arrested by Merseyside police, north of England, for their activities at or near the Aintree horse racecourse, which every year holds its traditional — and dangerous for the animals — Grand National horse jumping event. Some used ladders to climb over barricades around the course and attempted to use glue and locking devices to attach themselves to fences. Others glued themselves to a nearby roadway, causing a three-hour delay for attendees headed to the race. Additional activists were arrested on charges related to disrupting public order. The race was delayed for several minutes due to the activists’ success in entering the event. It is believed that most of the activists arrested have now been released from custody pending trial. They managed to disrupt the event when a national newspaper has infiltrated them weeks before and made an exposé of their plans.
Merseyside police said in a statement after the race: “Just after 5 pm a large number of protesters attempted to gain entry onto the course. The majority were prevented from breaching the boundary fencing but nine individuals who managed to enter the course were later arrested by officers.”
The animal rights group Animal Rising (formally Animal Rebellion) organised the protest. The Grand National has been the subject of much criticism by animal protection groups in recent years, not only because of the stress it causes to the horses but also for the many fatalities that occur during the inhumane race. In 2021 one horse died and two more last year. According to the Guardian, on the day of the protest there was the death of Hill Sixteen after a first-fence fall, as well as Dark Raven in a race earlier on the card. Altogether, three horses died in this year’s 175th three-day racing meeting, following the death of Envoye Special on Thursday. Despite such deaths being common, this year there has been much more public debate about them by the mainstream media, possibly because of the high-profile protest.