AN ANIMAL protection group has said it is "outrageous" that Worcester Racecourse is continuing to stage races after the death of a horse at the latest meet.

Worcestershire Vegans and Veggies have renewed their call for the course to be shut down, following the news 12-year-old gelding Captain Knock was destroyed after falling and breaking a foreleg during a race on Sunday.

His death follows that of Bathwick Man, who broke his neck during a race at the Ladies Day meeting earlier this month.

However, a spokeswoman for the racecourse said "equine welfare is a top priority" for all involved both at the course and for horseracing in general, and the sport was much safer now than at the turn on the millennium.

Vegans and Veggies communications officer Ronald Lee said: "It is outrageous that horse racing is continuing to take place at Worcester, which is now one of the most dangerous in the country for horses.

"This latest death means that 33 horses have lost their lives on the course in the past five years and we are renewing our call for it to be turned into a positive and useful amenity, such as a public park or an area for human sporting activity, so that no horses can ever be killed there again.

"Worcestershire Vegans and Veggies is dedicated to bringing about a more humane society, both in terms of the food we eat and how animals are treated in general, which is why we are campaigning for the closure of Worcester Racecourse."

In response, Susannah Gill, director of external affairs at the racecourse's parent firm Arena Racing Company, said: "Equine welfare is a top priority at Worcester Racecourse as it is at all British racecourses.

"Together with recognised welfare charities the RSPCA and World Horse Welfare, the British Horseracing Authority ensures the highest standards of horse welfare are demanded of all jockeys, trainers and racecourses and far exceed those prescribed by animal welfare legislation.

"As with any equine activity, racing is a sport that carries risk, and as with any equine activity that risk can never be entirely eliminated.

"British racing is open and transparent about the risks involved.

"From around 90,000 runners each year the average fatality rate is just 0.2 per cent, a figure which has decreased by 33 per cent in the last 15 years.

"Worcestershire Vegans and Veggies are not a welfare organisation, nor are they a charity.

"Their stated aim to see the demise of horseracing would have disastrous consequences for the thoroughbred horse as a breed, as well as the rural economy in areas such as Worcestershire."