It’s the ‘event that stops a nation’. Workplaces crack out the champers at 3pm; productivity comes to a standstill.
And that’s for the staff who even bother to show up – more sickies are chucked on Melbourne Cup Day than any other throughout the year.
The Melbourne Cup: arguably Australia’s biggest annual sporting event. There’s glitz, and glamour, gorgeous dresses, sparkly jewelry and good wines. There’s also the grim reality: The lives of the horses. Or more specifically, the lives that are lost.
Horse racing is not the standard vision of animal cruelty that many of us have been trained to recognise through RSPCA advertisements. There are no squalid kennels, or puppies choked by collars that are too small. The horses are well cared for. Their coats are glossy, their eyes are clear; their muscles ripple as they thunder down the track. They look like the epitome of perfect animal health.
But once the race is over – once the horse no longer has a purpose – there is a darker side to the industry that the cameras aren’t around to film.
Today, a horse running in the Melbourne Cup – who you would’ve watched barreling down the track, its coat slick with sweat – was euthanised after the race. The horse’s name was Verema.
Verema dropped out of the race at about the halfway mark, and it said to have snapped a large bone in the lower leg. Victoria Racing Club stewards confirmed that the horse had been put down, shortly after the race.
And Verema is not the only one to have had a less than noble retirement after competing in the Melbourne Cup. The 33 knackeries across Australia will slaughter between 22-32,000 horses every year. 40 per cent of those horses, are racehorses. The Coalition for the Protection of racehorses estimates that 18,000 ex-racers are killed every year.
Many horses are killed – and counted as ‘wastage’ – after injuring themselves during a race. When they break a leg at such speeds the bone can fracture into many pieces – making it almost impossible for a vet to adequately fix. If the vet cannot fix the break, it means the horse cannot race again; this makes the horse ‘uneconomic’ to keep around.
Activists have identified many other problems with horseracing. The thoroughbreds being trained to race are typically kept in stables where they receive little mental stimulation.
Without room to move, they can develop ‘behaviours’ (like the sad elephants you see pacing backwards and forwards, backwards and forwards in the zoo) biting fences or even themselves repeatedly.