Animal Rising 'hanging themselves in public', says Jockey Club chief after 'bad day for protesters'

Animal Rising supporters protest with signs outside the main grandstand while race goers with top hats go past on June 3, 2023 in Epsom - Getty Images/Martin Pope
Animal Rising supporters protest with signs outside the main grandstand while race goers with top hats go past on June 3, 2023 in Epsom - Getty Images/Martin Pope

The Jockey Club will launch civil proceedings against the protester who attempted to derail the Epsom Derby and have accused Animal Rising activists of drastic self-sabotage over the past 48 hours.

“It was a very bad day for Animal Rising,” said Nevin Truesdale, the chief executive of The Jockey Club, who own the Epsom Downs course.

“There is a degree to which this could make them more determined but I actually think we should stop talking about them now. We should give them the chance to effectively hang themselves in public which is what they’ve been doing in the days leading up to it and what they did on Saturday.”

Truesdale specifically referenced Animal Rising’s claim that the activist who broke onto the course — whose name was confirmed by the group as Ben Newman — had entered the racetrack after The Derby had started. Surrey Police and ITV, who screened the event live, as well as numerous witnesses, were adamant that he entered the finishing straight shortly after the race started, an act described by The Jockey Club as “deplorable”.

Organisers had taken out a High Court injunction to protect the racecourse and, as well as what might follow from Surrey Police’s 31 arrests, they believe that there is now a clear route to civil prosecution, fines and potentially even the threat of prison for contempt of court.

A willingness to now act on that court order was reiterated on Sunday. “We were always very clear that having been granted the High Court injunction we would not hesitate to enforce it should Animal Rising or anyone breach the court order,” said a spokesperson for The Jockey Club.

“Following their reckless and illegal actions we have been in touch with our lawyers about the next steps.”

Truesdale believes horseracing  must now deal what he called their “new normal” in dealing with the threat of animal rights campaigners and there have already been talks with organisers of Royal Ascot, which will be staged later this month.

The use of intelligence and a preemptive strike by Surrey Police that involved 19 arrests on the morning of Saturday afternoon’s race formed a notable part of a security operation that cost The Jockey Club an additional £150,000.

“We had significantly more security,” Truesdale told Racing TV. “We’ve learnt a lot about how to police future events. We shouldn’t underestimate the impact of really strong intelligence-led policing. Protesters were followed home from Epsom having done reconnaissance on Friday evening, and then more vehicles were stopped on the way to Epsom, and I think the big win there was just taking out individuals and man power from them … the removal of infrastructure like locking devices, burner phones. The removal of those I suspect probably helped stop their operation from going well.”

Animal Rising told The Telegraph they would continue their dialogue with the horseracing industry and they intended to make an announcement about any upcoming plans early this week.

They believe it was still a hugely successful event for their cause, citing not just how the protester ran on to the course but the “conversation” that has taken place about animal welfare in horseracing.

They also said that protesters had been attempting to get onto the course just before the race started and criticised organisers for not then suspending the race.

“We had repeatedly called on The Jockey Club to put safety first and cancel the race ahead of time,” said a statement. “It is public knowledge that there was immense pressure to run the race before ITV1 coverage switched to the FA Cup Final. In an industry where a horse dies every other day, it is unsurprising that the need to run the race was put above care for animals.

“These ‘equine athletes’ did not get a choice in this matter, they never signed up for this or were informed of the risks.”

Surrey Police said on Sunday that Newman, of Hackney, had been charged with causing public nuisance and has been remanded ahead of an appearance at Guildford Magistrates’ Court on Monday.

Police also said that two women who were “quickly detained moments before they were able to get onto the track”.

“We absolutely support people’s rights to peacefully protest, but we differentiate between this and unacceptable criminal behaviour,” said chief supt Clive Davies, who was in charge of the policing operation for the Epsom Derby.