OPINION: 'The Melbourne Cup is heavily glamorised. But this industry has a shameful side too.'

With the Melbourne Cup fast approaching, I wanted to take a few minutes to ask you to all to rethink your support of horse racing. This is an issue close to my heart, and one that, in my opinion, gets nowhere near enough promotion or education.

From where I stand, there are just so many reasons why horse racing is not okay. It is a ‘sport’ that feeds directly off the exploitation of the very things it supposedly prizes: our beautiful racehorses. As always, I simply do not condone or think it is in any way acceptable to support or contribute to the exploitation of animals for human financial gain. It is purely wrong.

Last year we saw The Cliffsofmoher killed in front of the Flemington grandstand. Yet he wasn’t the only one. Since 2013, six horses have died during or as a result of the Melbourne Cup. It’s the ‘race that stops the nation’, yet it is marred by these horrible deaths. Thankfully, these high-profile deaths are slowly focussing more negative attention on the sport. While many industry representatives make claims that these events are few and far between, on average one horse is killed on the Australian racetracks every three days.

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Here, racehorse The Cliffsofmoher is seen playing in the sand. One month after this photo was taken, Cliffsofmoher died at the 2018 Melbourne Cup. Image: Getty.

Yet injuries do not occur only on the track. The cruelty and exploitation of these animals begins long before they ever leave the gate. At the end of the day, it comes down to the fact that these horses are bred to run as fast as possible – it is their sole purpose in life. They have their bodies pushed well beyond normal limits, simply for financial gain. There is just so much money to be made in this industry.

A common injury faced by these animals off the track are gastric ulcers. Their high concentrate grain diets fed during training, rather than extended grazing, leads to an abnormally high incidence of these. In fact, a study of racehorses at Randwick found that 89% of horses had stomach ulcers, and many of the horses had deep, bleeding ulcers within eight weeks of the commencement of their training.


We are all versed on famous Melbourne Cup winners that are revered and go down in the history books as absolute legends (think Winx, Makybe Diva, Phar Lap). But what happens to the horses that don’t successfully compete for podium placings? Many failed or older racehorses are sent to the two horse abattoirs in Australia. Approximately 2,000 tonnes of horse meat is exported from Australia for human consumption in Japan and Europe annually (HSI Figures). Over 25,000 horses per year are killed in this way in Australia. When I found this out, it was a complete surprise to me. It’s just another one of those things we are not educated about.

It wouldn’t be a discussion on the Melbourne Cup without touching on the spectacle that the horse racing event has become. The Cup has turned into a trending celebration of all things outrageous and iconic. It is so easy now to forget that by attending the races, what we are really doing is supporting animal cruelty. And I don’t blame you, it IS easy to forget as the races operate so well under the guise of fashion, music, food and celebration.

The Melbourne Cup is heavily glamorised by the media, with widespread coverage of fashion, celebrity attendance and performances on the day. This year, it was a shame to see Taylor Swift put her brand behind an event that feeds off the injury and exploitation of animals. Thankfully, due to the pressure of Animal Rights groups, she has decided to withdraw from the event, a sign that perhaps we are indeed becoming more successful at educating about horse racing.

The glamorised perception of race days is further perpetuated by the way influencers are promoting racing each year. As someone who operates and interacts with my online community on a daily basis, I feel a huge responsibility to do what is right for my audience, and to promote things I believe in and educate accurately on issues I deem important - this always comes first. Sipping on champagne and getting dressed up is great fun and I love any excuse to hang out with my girl gang; I just think it should be taking place at events that don’t support such animal cruelty and gambling addictions.

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"Sipping on champagne and getting dressed up is great fun and I love any excuse to hang out with my girl gang; I just think it should be taking place at events that don’t support such animal cruelty and gambling addictions," writes DJ Tigerlily. Image: Instagram.

Speaking of gambling addictions - it’s another huge problem in Australia. Australians are some of the world’s biggest gamblers, and we’re certainly the world’s biggest losers. Last year we lost over $22 billion on gambling (that’s $1,200 per adult) and the advent of online gambling means we are showing no signs of slowing. Betting is now anonymous, online and on credit. Horse racing and gambling are so inextricably linked and so problematic for many Australians who face an addiction.

I want to say that I have no problem with people owning horses and I am positive that many racehorses are treated very well when they are performing at such an elite level. I do firmly believe that the majority of horse owners truly love their animals and care about them like their children. My problem has never been with this though. My problem is more so about using horses as a means of exploitation and primarily for financial gain. It is around us making profit (and a lot of it) off these horses, and around us fuelling gambling addictions through the ‘sport’. My problem is that these animals have become commoditised.

People use the reason that horses love to run as their 'why' to support the Melbourne Cup. I agree, they do love to run, but they also love to live, and seeing photos of horses frothing at the mouth with blood coming out of their nostrils does not look like fun to me. No part of me wants to support or promote animal cruelty. The Melbourne Cup has been made to look like a glamorous, fun day of celebration but there is a darker side to it and it is important to remember why exactly that is. I hope this brings to light some new information for you to consider, and I beg each and every one of you to re-think your actions, support and participation in the Melbourne Cup this month.


Dara Hayes (DJ Tigerlily) is a musician and influencer. For more, you can follow her on Instagram.

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