‘To the slow, the broken down, the old, the stressed, the exhausted – and all of the gentle creatures literally running for their lives. You are worth more than gambling money. You deserve better.’
~ Animals Australia
And here we are. Melbourne Cup days. The thought of this reminds me of a video I came upon some time ago about ‘wastage’ at the thought of this. ‘Wastage’, I learned, refers to horses that are cycled out of the racing industry – those who do not make the cut for the racetracks and those whose racing careers have come to an end. In other words, horses who are no longer worth their upkeep. The video comprises of a sequence of clips – discarded horses being corralled, queued and shot to death one by one. One horse, I remember, was visibly shaking as it waited.
What a thing for a life to lead up to such a moment. For the final breath one draws to be one of unbridled terror and distress. What a tragedy on our part, on the part of our humanity, to inflict such devastation on the spirit of a living being.
There is an ongoing fight to implement humane and sustainable retirement plans for racehorses. This is a necessity for horses who endure years of training and racing, only to be discarded. However, the implementation of these retirement plans must happen hand in hand with shutting down the racing industry as a whole. The racing industry is fuelled by a greed for profits and protected by wealthy, powerful stakeholders; it is a lucrative business. The fact that an industry as vile as this is so very profitable is a disturbing reflection of the standards we hold ourselves to as a society.
So, this Melbourne Cup day, give a thought to the horses – the slow, the broken down, the old, the stressed, the exhausted – and all of the gentle creatures who are literally running for their lives.
If you are interested in more comprehensive information about the horseracing industry, animalsautralia.org is a useful place to start.
If you are interested in detailed data, please refer to Deathwatch Report 2017, an annual report summarizing all on-track deaths around Australia over the past racing year (August 1 2016 to July 31 2017), published by the Coalition for the Protection of Racehorses.