To your group of friends, Spring Racing Carnival might mean copious amounts of champagne and the annual dusting-off of those ridiculous fascinators.
But for the sleek, intelligent creatures at the centre of the event, racing is a dangerous and often painful life path that, all too often, ends in premature death.
That’s the message behind a controversial 22-metre high billboard, which pictures a dead horse and poses the question: “Is the party really worth it?”
The ad, erected above Citylink in Melbourne, was funded by the Coalition for the Protection of Racehorses. Today it was taken down just days into its planned month-long run after 150 complaints were made about the imagery.
“We wanted people to know the fate of racehorses, both in jumps racing and in general horse racing, and for people to make an informed decision about whether this industry in its current form is something they want to support this Spring Carnival,” the group’s communications manager Ward Young told Mamamia.
My Young told Mamamia that horses that were too slow to race were often sent to the knackery, to a sale yard or to an abattoir. Alternatively, they might be sent to jumps racing, “a cruel detour where they have a higher risk of dying on the race track before they eventually end up at the same place anyway and are discarded,” he said.
“If a horse is seriously inured during a race they’re euthanised on the race track,” he said. “They pull out the green screen, drag it around the horse, kill the horse in privacy, the float comes — and it’s as if it’s a disappearing act, many people wouldn’t even know.”
In the last 12 months, 125 horses have been killed on Australian race tracks, according to the group.