Three animal rights activists have scaled a large scaffold in the centre of a track in a bid to prevent a major greyhound racing event.
The Animal Rising supporters entered Towcester Racecourse in Northamptonshire and climbed a scaffold holding a large television screen at about noon on Saturday in an effort to prevent the English Greyhound Derby Final taking place, the group said.
They intend to stay there until Saturday’s races are cancelled – including the English Greyhound Derby, which is considered the biggest in the greyhound racing calendar, at 9.15pm.
Animal Rising claims it has been told that while people remain at height there will be a total shutdown of the racecourse, alleging this will protect “greyhounds from coming to harm on the track”.
Northamptonshire Police and Towcester Racecourse have been approached for comment about the incident.
It comes after Northamptonshire Police arrested two men, aged 41 and 26, and a 33-year-old woman “as part of a public safety operation” for the race, which has a £175,000 winner’s prize.
The force has said it is “mounting a significant policing operation for the event, the biggest in the greyhound racing calendar” after the activist group threatened to disrupt it.
On Friday, Animal Rising claimed the arrested trio were its “peaceful supporters trying to protect dogs”, and pledged to “proceed with our intentions to disrupt the Greyhound Derby final”.
Towcester Racecourse managing director Kevin Boothby has condemned “Animal Rising’s very public plans to disrupt” the final.
He has said “their unlawful and reckless intentions for Saturday night have already come at a significant cost to our operation” while claiming the group sees “greyhound racing as a soft target in a far wider campaign where everyone is required to live a plant-based lifestyle and no activities that expose animals to risk of harm are permitted”.
In a statement, Alistair Stewart, 27, a student at University College London and one of those mounting Saturday’s stunt, said: “We’re here today to send a clear message that we need a national conversation about our broken relationship with other animals and nature.
“Greyhound racing epitomises the way we view animals as things to be used for human entertainment or pleasure.
“With 99 of these beautiful animals dying at racecourses in 2022, it’s clear this industry is literally life-or-death for the dogs in it.
“All this whilst a billion land animals are killed for food in the UK, causing untold suffering and worsening the climate and ecological crisis.
“We urgently need to mend our connection with all animals, whether they be in greyhound racing, our food system, horse racing, or beyond.”
Following Friday’s three arrests, Chief Inspector Pete Basham, who is leading the operation, said: “We have conducted warrants outside Northamptonshire as part of a wider operation to stop those intent on disrupting sporting events.
“Today we will be facilitating people’s rights to lawfully protest, but I want to send a message to anyone considering disrupting today’s event that we will deal with them robustly if they step outside the law and affect the enjoyment of spectators coming to attend the races.”
Mr Boothby issued an open message to race-goers urging them to be patient amid extra security checks due to the threat of disruption by Animal Rising.
He said “tens of thousands of pounds have been invested in additional security measures” because of Animal Rising.
He said organisers met with Animal Rising ahead of the final to raise their concerns about planned disruption.
The group has “made it clear under no circumstances would any of its members trespass onto the track in the process of a race taking place” but “we are expecting attempts to disrupt racing outside of the mentioned timeframe”, he added.