It’s Time To Shut The Horse Racing Industry Down

No horse is safe at the Melbourne Cup or at any other race. It's an industry built on cruelty, and it's time to end it.

melbourne cup horse racing photo

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Today is Melbourne Cup day. In years gone by, Cup day might have involved office parties, an early knock-off from work, crowding around the television to watch the 3.00pm race, and a blockbuster day for the big betting companies. But Melbourne Cup day in 2021 is for many people a very different affair to what it was even just a decade ago.

After years of horrific investigations into the cruelty of the horse racing industry, and seven horses having died at the last eight Melbourne Cups, more and more people are getting increasingly fed up with the cruelty of the racing industry, the power and influence of the gambling lobby over Liberal and Labor, and the annual brutality of the Cup race.

At least 149 horses were killed at an Australian racetrack over the past racing year. That’s more than one horse every three days. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Thousands of ex-racehorses are slaughtered after they stop making a profit. Yet governments and big gambling and racing interests continue to prop up this powerful industry that is rapidly losing its social licence and whose days are numbered.

That’s why the ‘Nup to the Cup’ movement has grown so much over the past decade. While research conducted by my office found that horse betting donations to the major political parties have skyrocketed over the last few years, public interest in the Melbourne Cup has declined dramatically, and more businesses are boycotting the event. A recent independent poll commissioned by my office found that a 55 percent majority of people agree that racing animals like horses for gambling and entertainment is cruel.

But horse cruelty doesn’t only occur on Melbourne Cup day. It’s systemic, institutional, and built into the business model of this toxic industry. That’s why today, on Cup day, the Greens have announced a transition plan that would shut down commercial horse racing in Australia.

Our plan would establish a taskforce to manage the shutdown, and put a new one percent levy on all betting related to horse racing to fund a just transition. This levy is projected to raise $494 million over two years, and would fund transition activities such as rehoming the animals, retraining programs for workers involved in horse racing, and repurposing racetracks to be used as open green spaces with community facilities. The levy could be increased or extended depending on the activities decided by the taskforce.

We can give thousands of beautiful horses the opportunity for a good life outside of the brutal racing industry. For too long, their welfare has been ignored for the sake of a bet, or for so-called ‘entertainment’.

But horse cruelty doesn’t only occur on Melbourne Cup day. It’s systemic, institutional, and built into the business model of this toxic industry.

But an industry shutdown would not just benefit racehorses. There are more than 300 racetracks in use across the country, and many of them have only a handful of race meetings per year. These spaces could be converted to much-needed green spaces and community facilities in both regional and metropolitan areas, and put to much better use than inflicting cruelty on animals.

We have a huge opportunity here to shut down a cruel industry, deliver new jobs in regions and cities, and repurpose racetracks for the public good. With a publicly-funded transition taskforce and a betting levy, we can have the resources needed to ensure a fair and sensitive transition away from commercial horse racing.

Today, many thousands of people across the country will be saying ‘nup’ to the Cup and I am one of them.

Horse racing kills. No horse is safe at the Melbourne Cup or at any other race. It’s beyond time to shut this industry down. It can and must be done.

Senator Mehreen Faruqi is the Australian Greens spokesperson for animal welfare.