“Today on the Melbourne Cup, I’m choosing to eat lunch in the office alone.”

While those in Melbourne receive a public holiday to enjoy the “race that stops the nation”, many workplaces across the country will be celebrating, whether it be an office sweeps, in-house catering or a full blown boozy lunch off site at a swanky restaurant. My colleagues will be among them.

I will instead spend the day at the office, working until 5pm and eating lunch alone (sans Champagne), actively choosing not to support the Melbourne Cup. I haven’t asked for any special treatment nor made a big fuss, merely saying I would prefer not to attend on ethical grounds and will instead continue my work day as normal, albeit a little quieter.

I haven’t always felt this way. I’ve previously been involved in many race day events, including planning corporate race days and heading up large in-office functions for Melbourne Cup. I loved the fashion and glamour of the races, however now all it represents for me is the acceptance of using animals for entertainment, no matter the cost.

In the 12 months to July 31 alone, 137 horses died on Australian racetracks; that’s one every 2.6 days, according to a report by the Coalition for the Protection of Racehorses. An even bigger risk for them is being classified as ‘wastage’; animals that are bred to be racehorses but don’t make the cut (with only a reported 30 per cent of thoroughbreds ever even making it to the racetrack) or the ones who are past their use-by date and no longer profitable.

Horses are expensive to keep, and the easiest solution is to sell them off to slaughterhouses. Figures are harder to come by as there is no mandatory reporting, however according to a 2012 ABC report, with roughly 15,000 thoroughbreds being born every year, industry insiders suspect that up to 10,000 horses are sent to the slaughterhouse. Those odds aren’t great.

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While I’ve always been an animal lover, meeting a beautiful greyhound called Poppy at my local park was the catalyst for my change of heart. She is very sweet and gentle, yet forced to wear a muzzle and stay on a lead at all times in public due to archaic laws, despite never showing aggression and never actually racing – she too was classed as ‘wastage’ before being rescued. How could someone want to have her put down simply because she didn’t fit the blueprint for a good racing dog? Yet, this is perfectly legal, as it is in the horse racing industry.

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After meeting Poppy, Melbourne Cup came along again and I realised if I didn’t support greyhound racing, I couldn’t be a part of horse racing either. I could no longer enjoy the dress ups, long champagne lunches or the office gamble, knowing animals were suffering for the purpose of human entertainment, wealth and fame. So when the office started planning Melbourne Cup lunch as it does every year, I politely tapped the organiser on the shoulder and asked them to count me out.

Maybe next year, you will consider eating lunch alone too.

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