No sir, I don’t like it
Growing up in Australia, I was socialised into believing acts of animal exploitation were normal and a reason to celebrate. Some of my earliest memories are of animals being tortured for sport or food.
I was only a few years old as I stood in my aunty’s suburban kitchen and watched as live crabs were lowered into boiling water. My childhood memories are filled with fishing trips with my father who would press live worms onto the barbs of hooks as a tool to snare fish. Many of these fish were considered too small to warrant taking home, so were returned to the ocean with severe cuts and gashes in their mouths. Bigger sea creatures were left to experience excruciating deaths in the open air before being taken to a kitchen to serve as a meal.
My uncle kept racing dogs. Another uncle used a pump to suck living prawn-like animals from their sand homes. I have relatives who worked themselves into a near-religious frenzy when betting on animal sports. I was taken to a circus by my mother and aunty, where I was encouraged to ride a donkey. The poor creature trembled under my 9 year old weight, as my lanky legs dragged on the ground. Tears come to my eyes as I type these recollections. I feel shame and sorrow.
As a young person with world views still in development, I had no compassionate voices shaping my outlook. I was being conditioned to see animals as an unquestionable source of food, entertainment, clothing and sport.
A particularly perverse example took place in a classroom.
A primary school teacher of mine wanted us to share in their love of horse racing. It was a sweltering day in my school north of Brisbane as the teacher wheeled in a television, cocked the antenna out the window and tuned in to the station showing the Melbourne Cup horse race.
Earlier in the day, fellow students had been sent around with an empty ice cream container to collect bets from the teachers participating in an informal sweepstakes. The teacher whose horse won was to collect the funds and the students were encouraged to cheer for the horse connected to their teacher.
I am certain this was not an unusual occurrence in schools all over Australia at the time. Students were shown that horse racing and associated social traditions such as betting on animals were reasons to celebrate. We were having this demonstrated to us by the adults we spent the most time with and who we looked to for emotional guidance.
Fast forward to Australia today and the macabre spectacle of the Melbourne Cup is still a major cultural force. This year’s race was seen by millions of spectators on live television, attended by thousands and celebrated by well-known actors, personalities and socialites.
Oh yeah, I almost forget. Two horses died tragically because of their involvement in the 2014 race.
One horse collapsed and died after finishing in last place while another was reportedly frightened by a flag-waving attendee following the race. This second animal fractured it’s leg and Melbourne Cup authorities claim a decision was made by the owner to have the creature destroyed.
I no longer live in Australia, but my memories of this horrendous sporting event compel me still to speak out against the grotesque Melbourne Cup spectacle. Animals raced until they drop dead is not a national celebration that should be a cause to hold our heads high. People living in Australia need to rise up in a collective voice of reason and compassion to put a stop to this tragedy.
Be the opposing voice. Speak out against cruel sports such as horse racing. Let young people in Australia know that adults are compassionate and if they choose to reject normalised cruelty, grown ups are 100% behind them.
Tell colleagues why you are opting out of workplace betting activities. Let them know you no longer wish to be a cog in the wheel of an industry responsible for the deaths of huge numbers of horses. Animals Australia estimate 18 000 horses are bred for racing each year in that country with only a fraction of these making it to the track. Around 700 horses are slaughtered in Australia each month for the international export market.
Horses experience broken bones, torn ligaments, gashes and many more horrifying injuries that mostly result in their destruction. Survivors can expect to be whipped and raced to within an inch of their lives.
If a young FGV in Australia could ask anything of you, it would be for you to see horse racing as the cruel industry it is and to make a pledge to reject it as a celebration. Be an example for young people in Australia (and around the world) who are in need of compassionate role models. Be brave in the face of social forces that work to make you a part of cruelty.
Visit Animals Australia to read more about horse racing cruelty.