The dark side of the Melbourne Cup

  • 07/11/2017
Every year the Melbourne Cup in Australia draws the ire of animal rights activists.
Approximately 125 Australian racehorses are killed every year. Photo credit: Getty

Every year the Melbourne Cup in Australia draws thousands of fans - but it also draws the ire of animal rights activists.

At least 100 protesters were present at Monday's Melbourne Cup parade, with cries of 'horse racing kills' heard throughout the official press conference at Federation Square.

Many of the protesters were from the Coalition for the Protection of Racehorses, a group formed in 2008 to address the welfare concerns of racehorses.

CPR campaign manager Elio Celotto told the Guardian Australia he attends the parade every year to "be a voice for racehorses".

"We've been demanding a retirement plan for racehorses since 2013," he said.

"The racehorse is totally exploited by the industry. They don't have a retirement plan for them and, as a result, most are sent to slaughter."

He said approximately 125 racehorses are killed in Australia every year, or one every 2.4 days.

"It's because they're pushed way too far. That's why we see so many horses 'disappear'  the racing industry simply does not account for them properly. 

"The industry relies on a model of turning over thousands of horses every year, simply for the sake of profit, and we think it's unconscionable that that is allowed to occur," he told the Guardian Australia. 

There is a long history of horses dying at the Melbourne Cup since the first race in 1961, in which two horses were killed.

The 2014 race resulted in the deaths of two horses, prompting a social media backlash.

Racing Victoria chief steward Terry Bailey called Admire Rakti's death a "shame", and Head of Veterinary and Equine Welfare Dr Brian Stewart described the death as "very rare".

The following year, crowd favourite Red Cadeaux was euthanised after breaking a leg in the final straight. 

According to a CPR report, 137 racehorses across Australia were killed in the last year alone.

Peter McGauran from Racing Australia has strongly denied claims the industry abuses horses.

"The claim that racing authorities are inactive on welfare issues is not supported by the facts," he told

"We are acutely aware of our responsibilities to meet community animal welfare expectations and purposely enforce the rules of racing to this end."

Anti-Cup activists have flooded social media to protest this year's race, some using the hashtag #NupToTheCup.

Protester Sue Schofield told ABC the racing industry is based on animal cruelty.

"It's the whole industry that is using animals to make money, and within that they abuse the animals," she said.

"They whip them. They use spurs to make them go faster."

Gonzalo Villanueva, a tutor at the University of Melbourne, told the Guardian Australia the racing industry was "hard to challenge".

"We feel we are the minority here, that we're not taken seriously. But if only people could see for themselves the lives horses live, the knackeries, the way they're killed, I don't think a lot of people would accept that."