Time to end the cruel Melbourne Cup. Is the first Tuesday in November really something to boast about? Your correspondent Graham correctly summed up the negative aspects of the Melbourne Cup (Web Words, DA 2 November) when he characterised it as being marked by “true blue Aussie pastimes such as not working, irresponsible gambling, excessive drinking and cruelty to animals”. Far be it from me to suggest any society should not be able to celebrate its qualities, but are these really the attributes that we want to endorse? No, they’re not, but as many will no doubt disagree, it’s worth delving deeper into exactly what the ‘race that stops the nation’ involves. Though it’s hard to escape all the hype about this race perhaps, as people become increasingly aware that horses die on racetracks, the Melbourne Cup is quickly turning into the race that divides the nation, as People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) pointed out recently. Indeed, ever since Archer became famous for winning the first Melbourne Cup while already injured, in a race in which two other horses died, countless other horses have sustained catastrophic injuries on the racetrack after being whipped mercilessly and pushed past their limits. Last year sentimental favourite Red Cadeaux broke his left foreleg on the track and was later euthanised, and in 2014 the race resulted in the deaths of two horses. Less publicised is the fact that horses are dying at lower-profile races all the time, with a total of 127 horses pronounced dead on Australian tracks over the course of 12 months in 2014 and 2015, according to the Coalition for the Protection of Racehorses. All this horror is overshadowed by the glitz and glamour, champagne, fashion, and prize money, but more and more compassionate Aussies are starting to take notice. Attendance at the Melbourne Cup Carnival has fallen for the last four years in a row, it is pleasing to note. Meanwhile, anti-racing “Say Nup to the Cup” events are springing up all over the country. The wastage rate for horses in training or racing is around 40 per cent, and many of those who don’t make the cut are sent to slaughter. Those who do survive are given a gruelling training and racing schedule, many suffering muscle and joint injuries, fractures, internal bleeding, musculoskeletal trauma, and ruptured ligaments. Then there’s the whipping. It causes localised trauma and tissue damage, and is actually of little value, for a 2011 study of Australian horse racing found that it improved the race times of just 2 per cent of horses. Researchers at the University of Melbourne discovered that half of the horses they studied had blood in the windpipe and close to 90 per cent had blood deeper in the lungs. Studies in both Sydney and the US have found that over 85 per cent of horses also had lesions in the stomach lining. Sick and injured horses may also be given steroids, which can mask pain or make a horse run faster. Most broken-down horses don’t make headlines, they’re just quietly shipped interstate to be slaughtered for human consumption or pet food. There’s nothing “sporting” about a pastime in which animals routinely suffer and die. It’s time for the nation to stop “the race that stops the nation”, and to give serious thought to whether or not horse racing, along with that other abomination, greyhound racing, should be banned altogether.
by ray goodlass