The nation has stopped, the horses have raced, the jockeys have whipped, the punters have bet their dollar bills and wept their losses or celebrated their wins, and the spectators have drunk themselves into a stumbling stupor. The hugely popular Melbourne Cup event is done and dusted for another year.
But while 100,000+ people crowded Flemington Racecourse to watch the action live, and millions of others around Australia knocked off at midday to head to their nearest TAB, a large number of individuals (and organisations) protested against the events.
Don't do the Melbourne Cup. Horse racing is not cool. Plus it's like the only time gambling is glamorized.— Sam Smith (@sgowsmith1988) November 1, 2016
Horse racing has been around for centuries. It’s an ancient form of entertainment that’s slowly becoming more heavily scrutinised as the years pass by. Arguments against the industry range from the unsustainable breeding of hundreds of thousands of horses, to the inhumane practices and the devastating fate of horses and foals deemed unfit to race.
As with any issue regarding animal welfare, these have been heavily rebutted by supporters of the racing industry. But how futile are their confutations? Here are a few of the comments I’ve spotted online and my responses.
1. Horse racing creates essential revenue for the Australian economy
One of my favourites. $$ over morals is one of the worst flaws of human evolution.
Yes, the Melbourne Cup brings a disturbing $1.7 billion into the economy each year, but it also throws away a fair chunk ($6 million prize money). Just because an industry pours money into the economy does not make it viable or sustainable in any way. How do we know where this money is going? If Australian casinos derive 78% of their revenue from gambling, does the racing industry do the same?
2. Thousands of employees would lose their jobs if the industry collapsed
First of all, people lose their jobs (and families) because of gambling addictions every day. Who do you think would face a bigger struggle to pick up new work – someone who fell deep into the black hole of gambling, or someone who was inconveniently caught up in working for a cruel and outdated industry that came to a crashing end?
Secondly, society is constantly evolving and jobs are constantly being culled while newer ones are created. For the horse racing industry to continue just so a few thousand people can continue promoting their irresponsible betting tactics is a ridiculous notion.
3. It’s tradition
Australia has managed to overrule and outlaw plenty more traditional events than racing in the past, why should this be any different? Because of the money and employment opportunities it brings? Please refer to my aforementioned ripostes.
4. It’s a damn good time and/or we want to keep the public holiday
I vote we do what Dave Callan suggests and keep the public holiday and ridiculous shenanigans, simply removing the cruelty from the picture.
The more people who spread awareness of the cruelty behind-the-scenes or propose a ban on traditional events like this one, the better chance we have of finding replacements for them. Replacements that don’t involve the unnecessary suffering of our furry friends or encourage unhealthy, addictive lifestyle choices.
So please, before you pull your money out of your pockets next year, take a moment to consider the fact that you are betting on the livelihood of innocent creatures – and the real outcomes of the race yield no winners.