This Year Was The Lowest Melbourne Cup Carnival Attendance Since 1999

If you’ve ever wondered if the efforts of animal protection advocates was having any impact, this definitely proves it.

The famous Melbourne Cup Carnival, which comprises of Derby Day, Melbourne Cup Day, Stakes Day and Oaks Day, has slowly but surely seen a decrease in attendance numbers in recent years.

And this year, it reached the lowest since 1999. Melbourne Cup Day itself hit the lowest attendance in 20 years.

This decline in attendance sits at around 25% since 2006. But you’ll probably work out that it’s no coincidence, since animal protection campaigns targeting the Melbourne Cup commenced just 2 years later in 2008.

Since then, the racing industry has been routinely exposed for it’s welfare issues: the lack of retirement plan, jumps racing, public floggings with the whip, deaths on track and in slaughterhouses.

Not to mention that horses have been consistently dying in the Melbourne Cup over the past few years, exposing a shocking statistic that this actually happens every 2.6 days year-round on Australian racetracks.

This year a horse died at the Melbourne Cup and then the next day, a jockey publicly punched his horse and was only suspended for 2 weeks. And this is an industry that claims to care about horse welfare.

It’s no wonder that the once-supporting-public can no longer take them seriously and are turning away in droves.

An industry that once operated without being held to public account, now struggles to maintain its social license. And it will only get worse until they realise they need to do better — much better.

3 Ways You Can Help Racehorses This Melbourne Cup Day (And Spring Carnival)

If you think the race that stops the nation is no cause for celebration, you’re not alone! Here are 3 really awesome ways you can help racehorses on Melbourne Cup Day.

1. Volunteer
There are sanctuaries across the country who are constantly cleaning up the mess of the racing industry by rescuing failed & former racehorses.

But maintaining and looking after them isn’t an easy task, and those caring for them can always use a helping hand.

Make a commitment to volunteer with your local horse rescue or animal sanctuary instead of watching the races on Melbourne Cup Day!

2. Donate or hold a fundraiser
This one is a sure bet.

Instead of putting money on the big race, why not commit to donate what you’d spend to an animal welfare group or sanctuary? Your money could go towards anything you choose – from long term campaigns for a racehorse retirement plan, to feed and vet care for an ex-racehorse at a sanctuary.

You can’t lose out when you’re putting your money on a kinder world for racehorses! Find out what fundraisers are happening around you.

3. Attend a protest
The only way that we will change the way horses are being treated in the racing industry is by raising awareness and keeping up the pressure!

If there’s a protest in your area, head on down to show your support. You can find a list of our own protests on our Facebook events page.

If you’d like to hold a protest, contact us, and we’d be more than happy to support. You can also download banners and posters on our resources page.

7 Horse Racing Facts That Will Change How You Feel About Melbourne Cup Forever

Horse racing struggles to maintain relevance throughout the year. Some people don’t even realise it runs outside of Spring. If you enjoy a flutter and a drink or two at the races, these hidden facts will make you reconsider.

1. Thousands of failed racehorses are slaughtered each year
Nothing says “we love our horses” like sending thousands of them to slaughter every year, right? While you’ll be hard-pressed to find a Melbourne Cup winner at your local knackery or slaughterhouse, there are 13,000 racehorses exiting the racing industry every year… And the majority of them aren’t the winners you see on the TV or in the newspaper during Spring Carnival.

In Australia there are dozens of knackeries that process failed and former racehorses for pet food, as well as two abattoirs that kill horses for human consumption in South Australia and Queensland. Some of their ‘horse steaks’ are served in a select few Melbourne restaurants, but the majority are exported to European countries like Belgium and France.

2. Racehorses die on the track … regularly
Unless you live ~under a rock~ you will have heard about the four Melbourne Cup deaths in recent years. The industry would have you believe these are ‘freak accidents’ and ‘rarely occur’, right? Wrong.

One racehorse dies every 2.6 days in Australia. And 137 racehorses have died since last year’s Melbourne Cup. They most commonly suffer catastrophic limb injuries, cardiac arrests and massive bleeds causing them to collapse and die. We compile them all in our deathwatch report, which you can read here.

3. Studies have shown whips hurt
Whipping = one of the most public displays of animal cruelty.

While the RSPCA would be quick to charge you for whipping your dog, cat or rabbit – whipping in horse racing is exempt from this rule, even normalised and celebrated, despite the fact studies have shown whips hurt racehorses.

4. Jumps racing is 20 times more dangerous than flat racing
Jumping. While. Racing. It’s as ridiculous as it sounds.

While there are no jumps races at official Spring Carnival events anymore, they do run throughout the season. Jumps racing is 20 times more dangerous than flat racing and kills multiple horses every single year when they fall on their heads and necks, or break their limbs.

Paying for a ticket to the races supports this.

5. Less ‘valuable’ foals are discarded
‘Nanny’ mares are kept in foal in order to have a milk supply, and when a prized broodmare dies giving birth to a thoroughbred foal, the nanny mare will step in to raise the thoroughbred ‘foster’ foal, and their own biological foal is discarded.

They are the bobby calves of the racing industry. And it’s a practice barely spoken about, but you can read the story of one lucky survivor here.

6. Some participants use drugs
With so much money at stake in horse racing, it’s no wonder that some owners and trainers resort to using drugs on their racehorses.

The cobalt saga involving numerous high profile trainers is just one example of using stimulants to push horses beyond their physical capabilities.

7. Horses are raced before their bodies are mature enough
A famous trainer once said “Two year olds, as we know, can be here today and gone tomorrow.”

It’s the perfect way to sum up 2-year-old racing. What good can come of racing young horses well before they are skeletally mature? And who would want to support that?

Instead of going to the races, on Melbourne Cup Day take part in something to help racehorses. Find out how here.

5 Reasons To Avoid The Races This Spring Season

Going to the races might seem like harmless fun. But hidden behind the glitz of racing are hundreds of dead racehorses.  This is the story of just 5 of them.

‘Almoonqith’ – Sydney Cup tragedy
Almoonqith was a 7-year-old gelding, who started his racing career as 2-year-old in America.

After being brought to Australia, he ran a very successful racing career, making almost $1million in prize money.

However, on 8 April 2017, Almoonqith broke his off-hind cannon bone while running in the prestigious Sydney Cup, and was killed right there on the track.

‘Harmonic Lass’ – raced as a baby
Harmonic Lass was a 2-year-old filly running in the Wellington Boot. It was just her third time on a racetrack.

During the race, she fractured her near fore fetlock and was killed. Unlike more prestigious racehorses, her death was not spoken about as she had only made around $4,000.

Her story highlights a huge welfare concern in the Australian racing industry – racing horses at just 2 years old.

Putting young, underdeveloped racehorses on the racetrack is absolutely culpable. And if they do not suffer catastrophic injuries at a young age, it still pre-disposes them to cumulative injury further on down the track.

‘Finke’ – literally bleeding to death
Finke was a 5-year-old gelding who had been racing since 2 years old. After a relatively successful racing career, making over $300,000 in prize money, his life abruptly ended at Morphettville on 25 Feb 2017.

Finke pulled up from his race distressed, and collapsed in the mounting yard. A necropsy found that he had ruptured his aorta – suffering a massive internal bleed.

‘Wheeler Fortune’ – the face of jumps racing cruelty
The annual Oakbank Carnival is renowned for it’s cruel jumps races – which regularly result in the deaths of horses. This year was no exception – with Wheeler Fortune falling over the final hurdle right in front of a crowd of racegoers, including young children.

A photo of him standing with a dangling front leg injury (which was reported to be a break to his near fore cannon bone) shaped the image of the rest of the Easter Carnival, and once again renewed calls for the ‘sport’, which is 20 times more dangerous than flat racing, to be banned.

Wheeler Fortune had race as a 2-year-old, and was brought to Australia from New Zealand.

‘I’m Captain Oats’ – never made a race
If I’m Captain Oats had have died in any state but New South Wales, we would have never known about his death.

The 2-year-old colt died while in trackwork on Hawkesbury racetrack, suffering a comminuted fracture to his off fore metacarpus (a catastrophic front limb injury).

New South Wales is the only state in the country that reports deaths in training and trackwork in their stewards reports. If I’m Captain Oats had have been training anywhere else, his fate would not be public knowledge. Presumably, this is the case for many other racehorses dying outside of official races in every other state.

‘Surface To Air’ – first and last jumps race
Surface To Air had never run in a jumps race before, and his first try was his last.

The 5-year-old gelding commenced his racing career in New Zealand, and after coming to Australia for a short stint in flat racing, he was moved into a jumps career.

However, during his first ever jumps race at Murray Bridge, he fractured his fetlock and was killed on the track. His death highlights a combination that can never be made safe – jumping and racing.

Glamorous, right?

These horses are just 5 of 137 racehorses who have died on Australian racetracks since the 2016 Melbourne Cup. And they are five good reasons to never place a bet again.

Wondering what you can do on Melbourne Cup Day without funding this cruelty? We’ve got you covered.

NSW Leads The Way On Racehorse Welfare

Since our inception in 2008, the Coalition for the Protection of Racehorses has continued to campaign for a better life for all racehorses. Always at the forefront of our concerns has been the slaughter of thousands of failed and former racehorses when no longer profitable.

Before animal welfare campaigners like us began exploring the issues within horse racing – the industry was accountable to nobody. Welfare initiatives – if any – were few and far between, and their dark secrets were hidden under a veil of secrecy to the public.

Until they weren’t.

In 2012, we exposed the routine slaughter of ex-racehorses at a Melbourne knackery. And since then, we’ve continued to release investigations at saleyards, knackery holding yards and slaughterhouses – where the glitz and the glamour has been left far behind them. It’s a side of horse racing that the public had never seen before.

Since then, programs like “Off The Track” that promote the thoroughbred after racing have continued to pop up, and while an important and worthwhile initiative, they fail to address the problem at large.

However, in the past 12 months, Racing NSW has taken on the problem head on. And frankly, the other state racing bodies could learn a thing or two from them. This is what they’ve done:

  1. Announced 1% of prize money would go towards a racehorse retirement plan
    Sound familiar? This is something we’ve been pushing for nationally through our 1% to stop the slaughter proposal.
  1. Purchased a 2600-acre property to house ex-racehorses
    A huge issue facing ex-racehorses is the lack of homes or properties for them to be ‘let down’ before being rehomed. And even if this helps just a few of them, it’s a great start.
  1. Put forward a ban on racehorses going slaughter
    It’s yet to be ratified by the board, and we’re still waiting on details about whether they will ensure horses aren’t just simply sent interstate for slaughter, or temporarily rehomed before going to an abattoir. But it’s a promising concept.

And just in case you’ve ever felt like speaking out for racehorses  (whether it be online or at a protest) was ineffective, this is what an industry representative said when announcing the changes:

“Racing NSW has committed to a multi-million-dollar expansion of its racehorse welfare program as it moves to stave off pressure from an increasingly influential animal rights lobby.”

Pretty. Damn. Cool. Now for the rest of the country!

The Shocking Number Of Racehorses Killed This Year

The racing year ends on July 31 every year, and starts again on August 1, also known as the ‘Horses’ Birthday’. The racing industry deems it a time of celebration – but is it?

4 years ago, the Coalition for the Protection of Racehorses began researching the number of racehorses that died on Australian racetracks every year. We knew there was a lot, we would read about them in the media, receive messages to our Facebook page from the public and concerned participants – and we even saw horses continue to die in the Melbourne Cup. But we never expected so many.

Since the commencement of our annual ‘Deathwatch Report’ – horses have continued to die at alarming rates. And this year, it’s no different.

In fact, it’s the worst year on record.

From the racing year of 1 August 2016 until 31 July 2017, a shocking 137 racehorses died on Australian racetracks. That’s one racehorse every 2.6 days.

75 of these racehorses died of catastrophic limb injuries – breaks, tears and fractures of their forelegs. But horses also died of hind leg injuries, cardiac arrests, massive bleeds — even head trauma.

Almost half of them had raced as 2-year-olds; pre-disposing them to long term cumulative injury further on down the track if they didn’t die young.

The shocking full report is available to download and read here.

But these deaths are just the tip of the iceberg – many thousands more are killed when they finish their racing ‘careers’ and no longer profitable. These horses are known as wastage.

As more and more information about the ugly side of the racing industry coming to light, it’s no wonder that there’s a growing number of people choosing not to support horse racing cruelty. So with the Spring Racing Carnival fast approaching, remember that making kind choices can change the world for racehorses.

Our newest campaign

You might have seen our newest campaign – street art across Melbourne. Our design is stenciled on with spray chalk, so it’s a totally legal way of sending a strong message. Get in touch with us via Facebook or email if you’d like to get involved.

While crowds were cheering on a winner at the Caulfield Cup on Saturday, a lesser-known horse at a lesser-known track in South Australia collapsed and died after rupturing a major blood vessel.

RIP Caprivi Strip. Is the party really worth it?