More than 40 animal rights activists ‘are “de-arrested”, another five are released, and no one has so far been charged’ after 118 were detained by police when ‘Animal Rising’ protesters stormed the Grand National

  • Animal Rising say more than 40 protesters were ‘de-arrested’ and five released
  • Three horses died at this year’s Grand National, with PETA calling it a ‘disgrace’ 

More than 40 animal rights activists have been ‘de-arrested’ after a large number of protesters stormed the Grand National, Animal Rising said today.

The campaign group said out of the 118 that were arrested, 68 are still in custody, five have been released and no one has so far been charged.

Merseyside Police made the arrests on Saturday after scores of activists climbed fences in an attempt to gain entry to the Aintree Racecourse track, delaying the race.

At least two protesters fixed themselves to a jump using glue and lock-on devices but so far no one has been charged, according to the animal rights group.

Three horses died at the race this year, with animal charity PETA branding it a ‘Grand National Disgrace’.

In a statement, Animal Rising spokesperson Nathan McGovern said: ‘Taking action to protect animals and nature is more important than upholding business as usual.’

Protesters are detained by police during day three of the Randox Grand National Festival at Aintree Racecourse 

Activists outside the gates ahead of day three of the Randox Grand National Festival at Aintree Racecourse, Liverpool, with a sign saying: ‘Abuse is not entertainment’

Three horses died at the race this year, with animal charity PETA branding it a ‘Grand National Disgrace’

The statement, released on Sunday, read: ‘We believe there were 118 arrests of Animal Rising supporters yesterday, with 68 in custody following the action.

‘Five have been released thus far and 42 were de-arrested and turned out onto the street by police. No one has been charged at this time.

‘The actions taken at Aintree yesterday aimed to prevent harm from coming to horses in the Grand National, with Hill Sixteen sadly falling in the race itself – a death that would have been prevented if the race had not been run.’

Mr McGovern went on to say that supporters of the protest group ‘do not take the risk of arrest lightly’.

He added: ‘This is just the start of many peaceful actions to really create a national conversation about our fractured connection with animals and our natural world this summer, whether they result in arrests or not.’

Read More: Hill Sixteen becomes the THIRD horse to die at Aintree in fall at the hurdle

The protesters breached security fences as National runners were in the parade ring, causing a delay of 12 minutes, although racegoers helped police and event organisers to stop some from reaching the track.

Merseyside Police had said: ‘We respect the right to peaceful protest and expression of views, but criminal behaviour and disorder will not be tolerated and will be dealt with robustly.’

Force Assistant Chief Constable Paul White said on Saturday that protesters tried to access the course from a number of points at the far side of the track, but were removed ‘swiftly’.

‘We put a proportionate policing plan in place and, by and large, we were able to stop the vast majority entering on to the course, a small number did get on to the course, but, very quickly, they were removed, again in partnership with the event organiser, private security and police officers and staff,’ he added.

Mr White said 118 people were arrested for criminal damage and public nuisance offences, including some pre-preemptively held before the race, and others over a protest on the M57 where activists glued themselves to the carriageway.

Protester Sarah McCaffrey, a shop worker and student, said: ‘Whether it’s for food or for fun, our use of animals and nature is symbolic of a relationship beyond broken.

Two activists are arrested by police outside Aintree’s grounds

Animal Rising protestors have brought banners outside of Aintree Racecourse

A massive police response was triggered after two protesters made it onto the course

Handcuffs activists are guarded by police officers during the Grand National at Aintree

‘We’re a nation of animal lovers, but the pain these beautiful creatures experience daily does not do that label justice. We need to find ways of loving animals that don’t hurt them.

‘I truly believe that we are a nation of animal lovers, every one of us. I know everyone coming to Aintree to view the races today would say they love the horses, however, the suffering experienced by them should shock us all.

‘That’s why I’ve decided to put my body between those horses and death on the racecourse, rather than gamble with their lives.’

A horse, Hill Sixteen, died after falling at the first fence – the second to die at Aintree on Saturday and the third at the three-day festival – prompting campaigners to call for jump racing to be banned. 

PETA wrote on Twitter: ‘BREAKING Hill Sixteen is the third horse to die at #GrandNational2023 #GrandNationalDisgrace #YouBetTheyDie.

‘The death toll continues to rise each year, claiming more lives. Since 2010, 36 horses have died at the #GrandNational Festival.’

And the RSPCA called on Britain’s horse racing governing body to ‘review the circumstances of each of the sad deaths at Aintree, so that we never again exit a “festival of racing” with three dead horses’. 

But the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) condemned the protests, saying: ‘We respect the right of anyone to hold views about our sport but we robustly condemn the reckless and potentially harmful actions of a handful of people in disrupting the race at a time when horses were in the parade ring.’

Activists outside the gates ahead of day three of the Randox Grand National Festival at Aintree Racecourse, Liverpool

Dark Raven was destroyed following the third race on Saturday after suffering injuries in a horrific fall. Animal Rising said they were ‘heartbroken’ 

Members of the police detain a protester as activists tried to block the start of the Grand National

BHA chief executive officer Julie Harrington added: ‘Love and respect for horses is at the heart of everything we do.’

Earlier on Saturday, Merseyside Police said three people had been arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to cause a public nuisance, with a 25-year-old woman from London and a 55-year-old man from Greater Manchester arrested outside the racecourse on Saturday.

A 33-year-old woman from the London area was also held in the Greater Manchester area earlier in the day.

Mr McGovern said: ‘These actions show that the police are spending more time chasing peaceful protesters than addressing the real issues that exist, such as our broken relationship with animals and the climate emergency.’

Traffic was blocked by protesters on the M57 motorway at around the same time as activists attempted to get on to the racecourse at Aintree.

North West Motorway Police said on Twitter: ‘We have a number of people sat on the M57 at junction 2 northbound – motorway is closed.’

National Highways said traffic was stopped in both directions on the motorway – between junctions one and two – shortly before 5.15pm, but by 6pm the southbound carriageway was reopened and northbound traffic was being diverted via a slip road.

There were delays of more than an hour on the road, which runs from the M62 to Aintree.

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