Australia

'You bet, they die': Animal rights groups call for Melbourne Cup boycott

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PETA claims Australians are "gambling with the lives of horses" at the Melbourne Cup.

As Australians descend on Flemington Racecourse awaiting the start of the Melbourne Cup on Tuesday afternoon, animal rights groups are calling for a boycott of the event.

The $7.3 million race will bring the nation to a standstill, but several groups say the sport is marred by deaths and injuries of thoroughbred horses.

PETA Australia claims 119 horses died on Australian tracks between August 2017 and July 2018 - which is an average of nearly one every three days - and noted horses often suffer fatal injuries after the 3200-metre race.

In 2014, racehorse Admire Rakti collapsed in his stall following the race and died, while Araldo broke his right hind leg and had to be euthanised. Last year, Regal Monarch broke his right leg and had to be euthanised and Red Cadeaux suffered the same injury in 2015.

PETA Australia spokesperson Emily Rice told SBS News the majority of the nation is against animal cruelty and we are seeing more and more Australians boycott the event.

"We are seeing the more people are educated on what the problem is, the more people make up their own decision to not participate in Melbourne Cup sweeps and events," she said.

The Emirates Melbourne Cup at Flemington Racecourse in Melbourne, Tuesday, November 7, 2017.
The Emirates Melbourne Cup at Flemington Racecourse in Melbourne, Tuesday, November 7, 2017.
AAP

"I think there is beginning to be a lot more knowledge about the fact, 'you bet, they die'. If people don't place bets on these horses, which is literally gambling with their lives, these horses aren't flogged into an early grave.

"We are seeing more workplaces decide they are not going to formally acknowledge the Cup is on and we are seeing more people decide not to go to the race courses."

Ms Rice said horses' skin is so sensitive they need to brush away flies, but are nonetheless subject to whipping during the final 100 metres of the race.

"You essentially have an animal who can feel an insect land on its skin and brush it away. They are certainly as sensitive as humans," she said.

PETA spokesperson Emily Rice.
PETA spokesperson Emily Rice.
SBS News

"Outside of the Melbourne Cup, beating an animal would never be tolerated, let alone celebrated, let alone put in this hallmark that we normally reserved for a holiday celebration which everybody agrees with. So I think it's the only time people turn a blind eye, maybe willful ignorance there, to the fact that these horses are being hit."

In the leadup to the event, #NupToTheCup has been one of the top trends on Australian social media.

Under racing rules, horses can only be whipped five times throughout the race until the last 100 metres where it is up to the jockey's discretion. Whipping is used in an attempt to make the thoroughbreds run faster.

The effects of whipping were addressed in a 2011 study - by PLOS One - which found indentations in the horses were caused in more than 80 per cent of impacts.

In a statement, the RSCPA is encouraging Australians to share a personal statement to support the ban of whips in horse racing.

"I won't support horses being whipped, an act of animal cruelty that would be prosecutable if it took place elsewhere," it reads.

"I won't support racing while the fate of thousands of horses that retire, are injured, or never even make it to the rack, is uncertain."

PETA also recently wrote to Victorian Trade Minister Philip Dalidakis to cancel Melbourne's public holiday commemorating a day where horses "routinely die" and instead celebrate a more suitable day, such as World Animal Day.

Ms Rice said if you have changed your view on horse racing, you can donate your usual punt to a racehorse coalition that protects thoroughbreds that have been handed over or rescued.

SBS News has reached out to Racing Victoria for comment on how horses are threated during the Melbourne Cup.

'F**k the Cup'

Newtown Hotel recently made headlines when it advertised its event 'F**k the Cup' event.

"We aren't about horse racing... so instead we are becoming an island from all the other venues around us... that won't be televising the Melbourne Cup or hosting some fancy lunch for suits to bet on some horse because it's name is cute," the Facebook event read.

Newtown Hotel event.
Newtown Hotel event.
Facebook: Newtown Hotel

The event drew criticism by some social media users, but received a wave of praise and likes from supporters.

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