There have been calls to ban horse racing after another thoroughbred had to be put down in Australia's most famous horse race today. (Photo: Generic Pixabay)

Horse racing’s cup runneth over with money and death

There have been calls for horse racing to be banned in the wake of today’s Melbourne Cup where another thoroughbred had to be put down – the seventh in the past eight races.

English Derby winner Anthony Van Dyck pulled-up with a fractured fetlock 500m short of the finish line. Jockey Hugh Bowman immediately dismounted and left in an ambulance, while the horse was later euthanised.

The Irish thoroughbred, best known for his win in the Epsom Derby last year, was in his fourth racing season.

“It’s time for this cruel and outdated industry to end.” Emma Hurst, MP for the Animal Justice Party said in a statement after the race.

In the seven Melbourne Cups prior to this one six horses died or were put down. The most recent was another Irish horse, The Cliffsofmoher, who was euthanised on the Flemington track two years ago. In 2014 race favourite Admire Rakti died of a heart attack at the end of the race, while Araldo was put down with a broken leg.

“Every year, more and more people are recognising that the racing industry is synonymous with animal cruelty. It’s time politicians do their job to protect animals and just ban the whole vile industry,” Hurst said.

Outrage on social media blew up after the race, with Twitter users slamming Racing Victoria and the industry as a whole.

Funds management group The Australian Ethical said: “The horse racing industry values animals on the basis of financial return, which means profit is often put before kindness.”

Data collected from stewards by the Coalition for the Protection of Racehorses found that in the year up to July 31, 2020, there were 116 racehorses killed at Australian race tracks. Of those NSW had the most number of deaths at 43, followed by Victoria with 31. The horses died from a mixture of injuries and heart failure, at the rate of one every three days.

In a previous study from July 2016 until July 2017, it was found 137 horses died on Australian racetracks. In addition the wastage rate (horses that don’t make the grade and are put down rather than be a financial burden to owners) for horses is put at about 40 per cent.

Animal welfare organisation the RSPCA claims about 9,000 horses are slaughtered in abattoirs each year, a number that Racing Australia has disputed.

According to AgriFutures Australia, the country’s thoroughbred breeding industry is worth $9.15 billion per annum to the Australian economy.

“Thoroughbred racing is one of Australia’s oldest sports … it is also a major economic activity contributing to national economic growth, jobs and government revenues,” Racing Australia chair Ms Frances Nelson QC told The Australian in 2018.

Over 70,000 jobs were linked to this year’s Melbourne Cup, known as the race that stops the nation, and it remains one of the world’s most well-known and richest races, with prize money of $8 million.