On Saturday, animal rights activists breached security at Aintree Racecourse and entered the track, delaying the start of the Grand National, one of the most prestigious horse races in the world.
Merseyside Police said that 118 persons were detained on suspicion of vandalism and public disorder in an effort to disrupt the event.
There were around 300 activists, and only minutes before the start of the race, several of them scaled the high fences surrounding the racecourse outside Liverpool and made their way onto the track.
The Animal Rising group claims that several protesters used adhesive and lock-on devices to attach themselves to the racing fences before being removed by police and security personnel.
Other protesters were halted by police and security personnel, who were seen shaking the surrounding fences to discourage any climbers. Residents in the area were spotted assisting security in their efforts to keep protesters off the course.
As a consequence, the race had to be postponed and the 39 horses involved were held in the parade ring. It was supposed to start at 5:15 p.m. local time, but it didn’t really begin until around 15 minutes later.
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Three activists’ planned disruption of the race resulted in the morning’s first arrests. On “suspicion of conspiracy to cause public nuisance,” the police claimed all three were taken into custody.
Their identities remained concealed.
“We respect the right to peaceful protest and expression of views,” Merseyside Police said, “but criminal behavior and disorder will not be tolerated and will be dealt with robustly.”
Animal Rising had called on protesters to gather outside the racecourse to demand an end to “animal cruelty for entertainment.” The group tweeted a video that it said shows one of its spokespeople being arrested at the protest.
Police said they have been working with race organizers ahead of and during the Grand National Festival, which started Thursday.
The Grand National Festival began on Thursday, and police have claimed they are collaborating with race organizers.
This Monday, Alex Lockwood, an activist with Animal Rising, announced their plans to interrupt the Grand National on the British radio show talkSPORT by stating that passing out flyers outside the track “never stopped anything.”
The fact that two horses, Dark Raven and Hill Sixteen, had perished in Saturday’s races at Aintree just added fuel to the fire.
After suffering a “unrecoverable injury,” officials of the Grand National said that horse Hill Sixteen had to be scratched from the race.
Thursday’s Foxhunters’ Chase, which is held over the same fences as the Grand National, proved disastrous for another horse, Envoye Special.
“This horrific ‘sport’ continues to take lives right in front of our eyes.
It’s time to BAN this horrific industry,” Animal Rising wrote Saturday.
The Grand National is one of the most anticipated events on the British athletic calendar, and for good reason: the massive obstacles make it one of the riskiest horse races anywhere.
After the deaths of two horses in the 2011 and 2012 editions of the Grand National, the course was altered in 2012 to make it safer for the horses.
In the subsequent nine Grand Nationals, just four runners have died out of a total of 356.
Two horses in the Grand National were among the four horses who tragically lost their lives during last year’s Aintree event.