Our Planet
The silvery wash of the moon illuminates the invaders in our garden
Marine conservation is about proper management not numbers
Lion killed California intern with one swipe of its paw, coroner reveals
Deer cull would threaten thousands of jobs, say furious gamekeepers
We must kill Bambi: why culling deer is a no-brainer
Five shark species win protection against finning trade
Pangolins under threat as black market trade grows
Should we learn to love eating insects?
Rare Sumatran tiger kills farmer in Indonesia
Where screeching, scarlet macaws enjoy raucous celebrity status
Summer's early birds risk their return from wintering grounds
Mexican monarch butterfly numbers at record low, scientists say
Military three-step as birds drill for food through the late winter snow
Beachcombers to hunt out 'mermaid's purses' to help protect sharks
French troops return to the heart of D-day operations
A landscape bathed in cold brilliance
Birdwatch: Pied-billed grebe
National Wildlife Crime Unit left in funding doubt
86 elephants killed in Chad poaching massacre
Polar bear hunting and migration 'hit by warming climate'
Cloning extinct animals: to hell with frogs!
Spring is in the air and Zoroastrians and hares and pagans. And me
When the icy wind drops, the first hint of warmth can be felt in the sun
Don't let good zoos go extinct
  Do you think the Grand National is cruel?
It probably won't strengthen the case of those who support the Grand National in its current form to hear the jockey Katie Walsh say: "I hope to God there are no accidents this year, but these things happen, and they are horses at the end of the day."

Walsh, who came third last year, told the Radio Times that she didn't read criticism of the event, which has been increasingly scrutinised after two horses died two years' running, because, "at the end of the day, it would be a lot worse if it had been two jockeys who lost their lives. I think everyone should remember that."

Since 2000, 11 horses have been killed during the course, and even if there are no fatalities this year, we probably won't have to wait long for the next the fatality rate of horses in jump races is four out of every 1,000 runners (by comparison, the number in flat racing is 0.6). In the Grand National, this is 15 per 1,000.

The British Horse Authority has responded by making alterations to the race, including raising the age at which horses can compete and making changes to fences, though critics say this is not far enough, pointing to its length, more fences per mile than other races, the crowded field and unpredictable obstacles, including the notorious Becher's Brook.

Every year, the same debate about whether the Grand National is cruel or not is reignited, but is any of it actually filtering down to the public? Attendance since those recent shocking deaths doesn't appear to have changed on main race day, it has hovered around 70,000 for the past few years. According to William Hill, £4.5m was bet on the race in 2012, up from £4.3m the year before though they don't keep data on whether more people are betting, or whether the same number of people or fewer are just placing larger bets. With the average stake around £5, "it is generally a mass-market betting event", says spokesperson Kate Miller. Does she think people have been put off by the horse welfare issues? It will be hard to tell until the end of this year's race, says Miller. "The high-profile events happened last year and they [the BHA] have made a lot of changes, but it depends which story gathers more resonance in the media I guess."

Andrew Tyler, director of Animal Aid, which has campaigned for a safer Grand National for years, if not a ban, isn't put off. "The debate is comparatively new," he says. "There have been years of conditioning of the public of this being a big cultural event and that's what props it up at present." But, he adds: "I really do think it's on the turn."

Has anything changed for you?
Hundreds of wild boars face cull in Forest of Dean
Grand National protesters accuse Channel 4 of exploiting deaths of horses
Kenya's Maasai keep lions at bay with solar power and ingenuity
Week-old baby died after being bitten by jack russell, inquest hears
Avian flu: Chinese pigeon fanciers vaccinate tens of thousands of birds
Art Deco among the ducks
The silent socialisers of the insect world
Firefighters tackle blaze at Scottish zoo
Scottish zoo fire leaves animals and reptiles dead
Upon the Yare three grebe pairs were all in display
Chinese vessel on Philippine coral reef caught with illegal pangolin meat
Stricken seabirds wash up along south coast of England
Circuses to be banned from using wild animals
Demand for lion bones offers South African breeders a lucrative return
Edinburgh zoo pandas 'ready to mate'
Humans that harm animals should be held accountable
Today the brimstones are out, careering up and down the rides
English farmers to be reimbursed for sheep killed in snowstorms
Rhino heads seized in gang raid on Ireland's national museum
On this bright morning, the redwing are looking particularly smart
The Chinese sanctuary with pandas at play
Australia's koala crisis
Edinburgh's female panda artificially inseminated
Scientists attack government climbdown on marine protection
French fisherman survives crocodile attack in Australia
Oxford college under attack over plans to display live shark at ball
Wood anemones bewitched by the wind
Shark's off at Oxford black-tie ball
Appetite for caviar could see paddlefish suffer sturgeon's fate
One day last week something other than water came out of the fountain
China loves pork too much
New to Nature No 100: Eleodes wheeleri
Bollywood actors charged in poaching case
Salisbury travel tips: great bustard birdwatching on the plain
Farewell to Nick Boing, Wales's very own superstar sheep
South African minister backs legalisation of rhino horn trade
Cold spring kills thousands of newborn lambs
Rolling snowballs the size of tumbledriers down the hill
Ranger corruption 'impeding global fight against poaching'
The grey seal's bewhiskered face bore an expression of pure contentment
A new, ethical way to buy fish from the fisherman
Dangerous dogs policy in the wake of the terrible death of Jade Anderson
Red squirrels are intensely curious creatures, and extraordinarily pretty
Freezing weather brings fresh perils for British wildlife
Paparazzi reception for an elusive star of the natural world the otter
Eating fish: it's complicated
Do you think the Grand National is cruel?
Cod and chips could be a load of pollock
Farmers call for help over mounting sheep deaths
Chinese fishing fleet in African waters reports 9% of catch to UN
South African game reserve poisons rhino's horns to prevent poaching
Cats leave their mark on centuries of books
Visit Statistics