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Will this photo stop you from going to the races this weekend?

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.

The billboard.

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.

Verema was put down on Melbourne Cup Day in Melbourne last year.(Photo: Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)
Verema was put down on Melbourne Cup Day in Melbourne last year.(Photo: Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)
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“Add in the use of the whip and the fact that a horse can be beaten an unlimited amount of times toward the end of a race, and then the glamour of racing doesn’t seem like what it’s advertised by the racing industry around Spring Carnival,” Mr Young said.

The group has been campaigning to have a retirement plan for racehorses funded -to save the creatures’ slaughter when they are deemed unsuitable to race -but to no avail.

“The racing industry rejected our proposal last year to use just one per cent of revenue from all betting turnover throughout the financial year – 14 billion dollars – for a retirement plan for racehorses,” Mr Young said.

The group also seeks bans on jumps racing, the whip and racing two-year-old horses.

The group’s campaign director Elio Celotto told Studio 10 the group had received a “very positive” response to the billboard from members of the public who appreciated becoming educated about the controversial issue.

But Racing Victoria chief executive Bernard Saundry told The Herald Sun the campaign is offensive and distasteful.

“The health and wellbeing of our equine athletes is at the heart of our industry and central to the thinking of participants and administrators alike,” he said.

“The level of care afforded the industry’s equine athletes is practically unmatched by any other domesticated animal.”

 Watch the Studio 10 interview below and make up your own mind:

Warning: The following video from the group’s campaign contains very graphic footage of a knackery that may distress some viewers.

Are you concerned about the wellbeing of race horses? Would it stop you going to the Races?

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