'Hope you enjoyed the doughnuts' - behind the scenes at the surreal Jockey Club-Animal Rising meeting

Desert Crown (Richard Kingscote) wins the DerbyEpsom 4.6.22 Pic: Edward Whitaker
Desert Crown: last year's Derby winnerCredit: Edward Whitaker

The Jockey Club's decision to seek a high court injunction against disruptive protests at the Derby next week followed a meeting with representatives from Animal Rising where the two parties shared doughnuts.

The get-together on May 11,  which took place in a coworking space close to the BHA's headquarters in High Holborn, was organised after Animal Rising wrote to the Jockey Club to announce their plans to disrupt the Derby and suggest they "all get around the table in an effort to understand one another a bit better".

The communications and other evidence were made available as part of witness statements from Jockey Club chief executive Nevin Truesdale and Amy Starkey, the group's east region managing director, who attended the meeting with colleagues Stuart Williamson (chief corporate affairs officer) Simon Knapp (vet), and the BHA's director of communications and corporate affairs Greg Swift.

Dan Kidby of Animal Rising was in attendance with fellow activist Kerri Waters, who later that night sent an email to those involved, thanking them for the meeting and signing off with the line: "Hope you enjoyed the doughnuts!"

It took Williamson under half an hour to reply, saying: "Many thanks to you and Dan for taking the time to meet with us today and for the doughnuts."

A selection of Jockey Club-Animal Rising correspondence

Stuart Williamson of the Jockey Club in contact with Kerri Waters representing Animal Rising
Stuart Williamson of the Jockey Club in contact with Kerri Waters representing Animal Rising
Kerri Waters representing Animal Rising in contact with Stuart Williamson of the Jockey Club
The cordial reply of Animal Rising's Kerri Waters, who shared some doughnuts during meetings with the Jockey Club

Further correspondence continued and shared a similarly cordial manner.

On Friday Waters wrote to Starkey: "After listening to your points of view last week, it is clear your team is deeply and emotionally invested in the welfare of horses.

"I recognise your sincere plea for us to reconsider was rooted in genuine care for every human and horse involved. The same compassion for life means we are bound by conviction to do what is right and stop the race. Our sincere plea to you is to cancel the Derby to eliminate all risk and reconcile our shared desire for a just and peaceful outcome. There really isn’t that much that divides us.

"In the knowledge that this situation is both conflictual and unifying, I am wishing your team all the best for the work ahead in the next few weeks and hope this discussion continues."

The following day Starkey, striking a pleasant tone too, replied: "I would also like to thank you for your transparency when highlighting Animal Rising’s determination to disrupt the Derby by breaching security and gaining access to the racetrack."

However, she added: "As you reference yourself, this course of action is unlawful and compromises the safety of everyone at the event, including equine and human participants, members of the public and yourselves. As such we make no apology for having to consider every option available to us to ensure that the event goes ahead safely.

"With this in mind we would like to take this opportunity to repeat our plea to Animal Rising not to engage in any form of protest which significantly risks the safety of yourselves and others, including by seeking to prevent or delay the races.

"We will have security measures in place on and around the site and will be working closely with Surrey Police to ensure that any protests which cause disproportionate disruption or risks, are dealt with swiftly and decisively."

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James BurnLambourn correspondent
Published on 22 May 2023Last updated 19:39, 22 May 2023