IIn a 24-race career for Nicky Henderson between May 2014 and April 2019, Vyta Du Roc won seven races, including Grade Two Reynoldstown Chase at Ascot, two Grade Twos over hurdles, and a handicap pursuit at Cheltenham’s New Years meet in 2018. Overall , has deposited nearly £ 180,000 in prize money for its owners Simon Munir and Isaac Souede.

As a result of the panorama investigation “The dark side of horse racing” on Monday evening, we now also know that shortly after his first start according to the rules for Gordon Elliott at a cross-country event in Punchestown, Vyta Du Roc ended his life by the bullet of a butcher in a slaughterhouse near Swindon – many hours by truck and ferry from his last home.

Munir and Souede said in a statement to the program that they were “shocked and angry” when they were told that Vyta Du Roc had gone to the slaughterhouse because they had “taken appropriate steps to ensure that Vyta was at an appropriate one.” Holder was housed. ”Meanwhile, Elliott said that the horse had been” handed over to another rider at the request of its owner “without the money changing hands.

The footage of the last moments of horror – and that of several other horses, including thoroughbred ex-racing drivers – was shocking and disturbing for fans and non-fans of racing alike. And that is how it is supposed to be. We’ll all be desperate if ever shrugged off images like this one.

The fact that some ex-racehorses end their days in a slaughterhouse should of course not surprise anyone. The RSPCA and World Horse Welfare, the two largest horse charities, both recognize that for some horses – thoroughbred and non-thoroughbred – humane euthanasia, as the WHW website puts it, “is one of the most responsible decisions an owner makes can hit if they cannot secure the future of their horse. ”It adds that“ it is often better to leave a horse in an unfamiliar environment than to move imprudently and let it fall into the wrong hands ”.

WHW, on the other hand, is an animal welfare organization. Animal Aid’s ethos, which Panorama secretly provided footage with, is animal rights. Its ultimate goal is to prevent human use of animals, period. His primary interest in welfare issues is a means to this end.

Gordon Elliott said Vyta Du Roc was “transferred to a different driver at the request of its owner”. Photo: Steve Davies / racingfotos.com / REX / Shutterstock

Perhaps this contributed to the fact that the show on Monday was longer on shock value than interrogation and details. For example, the program makers knew that 87% of the thoroughbreds slaughtered at the Drury & Sons slaughterhouse in Swindon in 2019 – practically the only slaughterhouse in the UK that accepts ex-racehorses – were from Ireland. In 2020 it was 88%.

These numbers are astonishing when you consider that in the UK 14,000 horses are trained simultaneously and 20,000 race over the course of a year. In Ireland the last corresponding numbers were 4,552 and 9,248, and they are all a long and expensive van and ferry ride from Swindon.

Instead, Panorama contented itself with simply saying that the “vast majority” of the horses slaughtered at Drury & Sons came from Ireland and left it at that.

Panorama also claimed that 4,000 thoroughbreds, or 2,000 per year, were sent to slaughterhouses in the UK and Ireland in 2019 and 2020. However, since there are only two slaughterhouses in Ireland – in Kildare and Kilkenny – with a license to accept thoroughbreds and it can also be assumed that very few British horses are sent for slaughter in Ireland, it is likely that a total of ex-racing drivers from British stables that end up in a slaughterhouse is even below the 200 per year that the relative figure at Drury & Sons implies.

A closer analysis of the age and racing experience, if any, of thoroughbreds sent for slaughter may shed some light on the reasons for this apparent inequality. Ireland’s breeding industry, for example, is the largest in Europe and the third largest in the world with a foal crop of just over 8,500 in 2020. If it turns out that a significant proportion of the horses slaughtered are not old or injured, but simply superfluous, what can you do do to reduce overproduction?

Of course, questions like these are largely irrelevant when approaching racing and breeding with an abolitionist, rights-based agenda. But it is imperative for the regulators of sport, both in the UK and Ireland, to come up with compelling answers and continue to do so from year to year. This requires a significant investment of time, effort – like the five-year “A Life Well Lived” plan launched by the Horse Welfare Board last February – and cash. The BHA’s reported £ 1.4 million a year investment in aftercare for ex-racehorses – about £ 350 for each of the roughly 4,000 who leave training – feels appallingly inadequate.

As Roly Owers, CEO of WHW, said Tuesday, “Panorama’s program poses far bigger problems than the seemingly shocking slaughterhouse practices – from breeding programs to training programs to a lack of consideration for the welfare of horses during transport Integrity of our passport system and thus on the traceability of racehorses. The industry has to sit up and take notice from top to bottom. “

Panorama should shock, and it succeeded. When the shock subsided on Tuesday, James Given, the BHA’s director of equine health and care, said the agency and the Horse Welfare Board “are all clear that the transportation of horses from Ireland for euthanasia in the UK must be halted”. If this is the first positive result of the Monday broadcast, it will hopefully not be the last.