Nov 4, 2014

Yes, I hate the Cup — and for damn good reason

The horseracing industry is cruel, exploitative, unsafe and reliant on organised crime and rentseeking. It shouldn't be celebrated.

Bernard Keane — Politics editor

Bernard Keane

Politics editor


One of the most painful aspects of the Melbourne Cup is its intensely formulaic nature. Painful, that is, for humans; if you’re one of the “equine athletes” (yes, the racing industry actually uses that term) forced to take part in being flogged around a paddock for the pleasure of 100,000 drunken halfwits, there’s an altogether more immediate pain involved. But for those of us merely forced to endure it from afar, what sticks in the craw most is the kabuki-like repetition of proceedings every year, with only the beasts’ names being altered. Otherwise, it’s the same coverage, the same relentless banality, the same clichés, the same stock photos of young women (sorry — “fillies”) wearing the same silly frocks and shit in their hair, the same lame jokes, the same post-race pictures of racegoers lying passed out, vomit-spattered formal wear akimbo, the same touching story of how Jockey X overcame tragedy/scepticism/something-or-other mildly inconvenient to achieve victory.

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78 thoughts on “Yes, I hate the Cup — and for damn good reason

  1. Geoff Russell

    Well put Bernard, I couldn’t have said it half as well! except that I’ve been vegan for a few decades in an effort not to add hypocrisy to my other failings.

  2. kakadu

    I’m with you 100%, Bernard. I decided this year I was not going to take part in the sweeps and won’t be there to see the poor animals get flogged.

    A the risk of seeming a wet blanket I’d rather just not be part of the hysteria.

  3. Neutral

    It’s a bizarre sight watching dolly birds wearing silly hats staggering around in broken high heels and chundering into the gutter.

  4. Chris Johnson

    Yes, it is just that – a tax-funded pageant of obscene cruelty and liquored up bogans.

  5. Coralien

    What to say, I feel ashamed to be part of a community that can do this. I don’t bet, but have done in the past.

    What can we collectively do to stop this abuse to animals and use of tax payers dollars?


  6. Glenn OC

    Growing up with a father who owned racehorses, i really wanted to read this article and dismiss it as just another ‘nark’, ready to pour scorn on what has become such a big part of our culture – but it’s spot on. I have had mixed feelings about racing for many years, and its all just crystallised after reading this. I’ll probably just go 15 minute walk at 2.55pm to avoid the hysteria. Well written Bernard.

  7. Nicholas

    A horse can feel a fly on its skin. So being struck hard by a whip definitely causes a horse pain. Defenders of the practice argue that this is the point – that whipping induces faster speeds. But there is no peer-reviewed evidence of whipping improving a horse’s racing performance.

    In Australia the rules of racing prohibit striking the horse on the side of its abdomen. But these strikes still occur and there is no monitoring and enforcement mechanism. Another rule is a limit on the number of strikes that can be applied in a race. But this limit is removed for the last one hundred metres of the race. This is stupid because in the final one hundred metres the horse is most likely too tired to run any faster.

    In any event, any amount of whipping on any part of a horse’s skin is cruel. The entire horse racing industry is built on cruelty. A large number of race horses break their legs every year. They suffer agony before being euthanased. All this is done for the sake of amusement and profit.

    The Melbourne Cup is called the race that stops a nation. It is almost universally accepted as a great Australian tradition. The fact that something is a tradition does not make it right. Watching people get disembowelled, castrated and beheaded was an English tradition for many centuries.

    Let’s abolish horse racing. It’s an unethical industry and it shames all of us. We don’t need it. There are thousands of other industries for people to work in and there are new industries emerging all the time. You don’t need a horse race to drink champagne and wear a silly hat. There are thousands of harmless forms of amusement to choose from. Fly a kite, climb a mountain, paraglide. If you are are into risking limbs, risk your own, not an animal’s.

  8. Kevin Herbert

    Agree 100% with Bernard and posters 1 to 6.

    I just cant support any sport where animals are whipped by midgets for the entertainment of drunken goons.

  9. Mish Singh

    To paraphrase the comment above, “Agree 100% with Bernard and posters 1 to 8”.
    Thanks, Mr Keane (again). It’s some consolation that this view of horse-racing is a lot more visible than it once was.
    Oh, and I’m a long-time vegetarian, but personally I don’t believe that eating meat disqualifies you from objecting to this cruelty :).

  10. Rita El Daghl

    Brilliantly put.

    A disgraceful industry that only serves to further highlight our lack of respect for animals and our propensity to accept, if not encourage, the lack of scrutiny when it comes to the elite.

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