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Animal activists pledge to shut down Epsom on Derby day

Animal activists pledge to shut down Epsom on Derby day

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

A spokesperson for Animal Rising has said that protesters will attempt to shut down the race in their bid to protect the animals.

The warning came after the Jockey Club, which owns Epsom Downs, was last week granted a High Court injunction against the group, claiming it had made “explicitly clear” it intended to breach security at the Surrey racecourse.

On Friday, Surrey Police warned they “will not tolerate” risks to public safety after an Animal Rising spokesperson told Sky News she would do “what’s necessary”, including breaking the law, to protect the animals.

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

There was disruption at the British Grand National at Aintree in April when the race was delayed by just over 10 minutes 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.”

Speaking on Friday, a spokesperson for Surrey Police said that, while they would help support peaceful protests, they 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.”

During a debate on Sky News earlier this week, Claudia Penna Rojas, of Animal Rising, said she would “do right” by the horses, even if it meant 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,” she said.

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

The injunction granted 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.

Such acts 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 and 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.