HORSES racing at Musselburgh receive better care and treatment than “some human beings”, the general manager of its racecourse has told a council committee.

Bill Farnsworth was addressing questions about the impact of animal welfare concerns on Musselburgh Racecourse and its operations.

Speaking about the reaction from some sections of social media following the deaths of four horses during one race day last December, Mr Farnsworth said incidents like that were “horrific for everyone involved” and said the horseracing industry was proud of the care it provided to its racers.

He told the committee: “The horseracing industry is very proud of the way its horses are treated and cared for. It is better than some human beings are treated – that is the sad truth.”

Mr Farnsworth was presenting an annual report on the racecourse’s performance over the last financial year.

The Beast from the East snow storm, an outbreak of equine influenza, and a long spell of dry weather all contributed to what he described as one of the worst years the course had been through in his memory.

A number of key fixtures were cancelled and profits fell.

In December, four horses died during one day of racing at the course but a subsequent review by the British Horseracing Authority ruled that the course and race organisers were not at fault.

Councillor Gordon Mackett asked Mr Farnsworth if the racecourse had been affected by animal welfare concerns.

The course manager said: “We did have a horrible day when there were four fatalities; however, these were all completely separate incidents.

“In a sport like this you will get injuries and fatalities from time to time. It is horrific for the people involved.”

Mr Farnsworth said that the public were becoming more aware of incidents like these through social media which, he said, “fuelled the debate around animal welfare”.

However, he said there had been no indication that it had had an impact on events at Musselburgh, which saw record crowds at its Easter Day racing this year and another sell-out Ladies Day.

His report to the committee revealed that the racecourse had reported a loss over the last financial year after it paid over £350,000 of legal costs relating to the ongoing process by East Lothian Council to find new third-party operators to run the course.

Councillor Kenny McLeod questioned why the costs were being met by the course and not the council itself.

However, depute chief executive of the council Alex McCrorie told the councillor that the costs were charged to the racecourse because when the new operator was procured it would be the racecourse that benefitted.

He conceded to Mr McLeod that, without the legal costs being taken from the course’s funds, it would have been in profit last year.

East Lothian Council replaced the previous governance committee which oversaw the running of the course with a new committee last year after relations between members of the old committee badly deteriorated and the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) threatening to suspend its racing licence.

The new Musselburgh Racing Associated Committee (MRAC) – which is made up of four elected councillors and two representatives of the racing industry, currently members of Lothians Racing Syndicate – has been overseeing the hunt for a new operator.

However, the BHA has only granted temporary licences and extensions under the new committee as it continues to monitor its performance.

Mr Farnsworth said that the introduction of the new interim committee had caused some problems too. He told the committee: “It has been difficult attracting sponsorship and corporate hospitality because of the uncertainty; however, this seems to be improving.”