Wildlife Presenter Anneka Svenska is wearing the largest hat in racing history at Royal Ascot today.
Wildlife presenter wears 1,000 blood red roses to symbolise equine deaths from UK horse racing
14th June 2016
British conservationist and TV wildlife presenter Anneka Svenska is campaigning at Royal Ascot today to bring the plight of over 1,400 British racehorses that have died following racing injuries since 2007 to the attention of the mainstream - by wearing a dramatic hat made with a thousand blood-red roses.
Sadly the hedonism of the Royal Ascot event is an intoxicating smoke screen to the reality of the death and suffering behind the sport of horse racing. Its time we realised that Royal Ascot is not just the glamorous event we perceive it to be.
Anneka's astounding hat towers a staggering one foot above her head and cascades well over 6ft down to the ground.
Designed and hand made by celebrity milliner and Britain's Next Top Model Judge Louis Mariette, it has been created solely to get people talking about the need to improve horse welfare standards at British racecourses.
Anneka explains that whilst people often only blame the steeplechase races for horse fatalities, Ascot too has had its fair share of deaths and actually ranks as Britain's most dangerous Flat (turf) venue.
And in 2014, four horses died. They were Case Statement who died from a broken lower leg; Inchila and Sir Graham Wade both suffered a fractured pelvis; and Tiger Cliff collapsed and died after the race.
Last year, two horses died: Stravagante who was destroyed due to a fractured cannon-bone and King Edmund who fell and broke his neck.
So what can you do?
It's time, says Anneka, to put the safety of the animals must above profit and to do just that she is proposing and campaigning for the following measures:
An end to National Hunt Racing - which involves jumping fences and ditches, often referred to as hurdles or steeplechase. The Grand National and Cheltenham festival races are two of the biggest and most dangerous steeplechases, responsible for 40 deaths in the last 10 years. Cheltenham saw seven deaths this year and there were five at Aintree.
An end to the whip - which has been shown to be ineffective and can cause painful welts. The use of the whip urges the horse to go beyond what it is able to comfortably do, and can result in injuries and stress. Norway banned the whip in 1982 and there is no reason why the UK cannot follow that example. In 2014, there were 586 breaches of the British Horseracing Authority rules against excessive whip use. Racing Writer of the Year, Alan Lee, declared in The Times that Royal Ascot is "a stage on which jockeys have regularly been guilty of a win-at-all-costs attitude with the whip in the principal races."
Shorten the course to under 4.5 miles - anything over this is too long and gruelling for most horses. Many horses can suffer stress, strokes and collapse.
"I don't think that we will ever see an end to horse racing, as it is deeply embedded in British Culture", says Anneka, "however we can certainly bring attention to improvements which so desperately need to be made.
"By wearing this hat, I am hoping to open up a calm and civilised discussion with MP's and those working in the horse racing industry to explore how we can move forward.
"Sadly the hedonism of the Royal Ascot event is an intoxicating smoke screen to the reality of the death and suffering behind the sport of horse racing and its time we sat up, opened our eyes and realised that Royal Ascot is not simply just the glamorous event we perceive it to be."
The hat's maker, Louis, like Anneka, is a great animal lover. The son of a vet he has specialised in celebrating nature in his hat making. This hat took two weeks to make - each of the 1,400 foam roses have been hand dipped in Red Stallion paint. And although the finished hat is heavy and painful to wear, Anneka is undeterred.
"My head pain is irrelevant when those poor horses are being whipped to within an inch of their life out there on the tracks", she says.
Anneka Svenska the activist
Conservationist Anneka has long worked to stop wildlife crime. She recently teamed up with Chris Packham, Bill Oddie and Steve Backshall to make an anti-badger cull film and last week joined forces with Star Wars actress Carrie Fisher to deliver a petition to the Chinese Embassy to request that the cruel Yulin Dog Meat Festival should be stopped.
Anneka has travelled to the depths of South Africa alongside David Attenborough's 'Life of Birds' producer Nigel Marven to film the desperate decline of the rhinos. She has also rescued over 300 stray and abused dogs from Romania and Cyprus, as well as many from the cruel dog meat trade of Thailand.
Anneka's production company GreenWorldTV supports under-funded animal charities and inspiring animal rescuers who find it hard to create film and media campaigns without backing.
Websites to visit for more about the dangers of horse racing
- Horse Deathwatch
- Animal Aid
- League Against Cruel Sports
- The Coalition for the Protection of Race Horses
- The Horse Deathwatch website (Source for statistic on numbers of racehorse deaths since 2007).
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