Animal activists pledge to 'cancel' Epsom on Derby day

Activists Animal Rising have threatened to shutdown the Epsom Derby, claiming it was willing to “put their bodies on the line”

Animal rights activists have pledged to “cancel or severely delay” the Epsom Derby on Saturday as police brace for disruption.

A campaigner for group Animal Rising said protesters will attempt to shut down the race in their bid to protect the animals.

It came after the Jockey Club, which owns Epsom Downs, was granted a High Court injunction to ban potential disruption caused by the group.

On Friday, Surrey Police said it “will not tolerate” risks to public safety, after an Animal Rising spokeswoman said she would do “what’s necessary”, including breaking the law.

“If it means breaking the law, we know that law isn’t always equal to morality and we know that people have had to break laws throughout history to create the change that we need,” Claudia Penna Rojas, of Animal Rising, told Sky News.

Writing on Twitter, the activist group claimed it was willing to “put their bodies on the line”.

Previously the group delayed the Grand National at Aintree in April after demonstrators made their way on to the track and had to be removed by police.

Speaking ahead of the planned protest on Saturday, Nathan McGovern, of Animal Rising, said: “We are looking to continue the conversation that we started at the Grand National about our broken relationship with animals and nature.

“On the ground we are looking to cause the cancellation or severe delay of the event so that everyone in the country has this discussion.”

Protesters are detained by police during day three of the Grand National Festival. Credit: PA

Speaking on Friday, a spokesman for Surrey Police said, while they would support peaceful protests, the force would “not tolerate” criminal activity or risks to the public.

They said: “The guiding principles of policing protests are the safety of protesters, the public and police officers involved, preventing criminal behaviour or disorder and de-escalating tensions.

“We do not comment on officer numbers for operational reasons, but our officers are well-trained in responding to protests and will be on hand throughout the day to police the event.

“Where lawful, we will seek to facilitate peaceful protests.

“Any criminal activity or risk to public safety will not be tolerated, and we will take robust action in response to this.”

Jockey Club officials fear the protest will endanger participants, racegoers and horses, although they said they do not dismiss the right to peaceful protest and have offered Animal Rising an area near the racecourse’s entrance to demonstrate

What is the injunction against Animal Rising?

The injunction granted last week by High Court judge Sir Anthony Mann bans people from going on to the racetrack and carrying out other acts with the intention and/or effect of disrupting the races.

This would include:

  • Intentionally causing objects to enter the racetrack,

  • Entering the parade ring,

  • Entering and/or remaining on the horses’ route to the parade ring and to the racetrack without authorisation

  • Intentionally endangering any person at Epsom Downs racecourse during the two-day Derby Festival.

Those breaching the court order may be subject to contempt of court proceedings and fined or jailed.

Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To Know...