How To Prove To Boomers That The Melbourne Cup Is Deeply Fucked
Every year at least one person in your Facebook feed tries to defend The Melbourne Cup. Here is how you can shut them down.
For the most part, ethics is complicated. Hundreds of people — much smarter than you or I — have spent hundreds of years debating the right and the wrong thing to do. But then, every once in awhile, along comes an ethical problem that is exceedingly, thunderingly simple. The Melbourne Cup is such a problem.
The Melbourne Cup is three minutes of animal torture. Most of the people who dress up for the cup, get blasted, and enter sweepstakes, would have as much fun if there were no animals involved, and the race was between a bunch of shopping trolleys hooked up to little motors. The actual mechanics of the event is about alcohol, gambling and very rich people wearing very expensive clothes. The horse suffering is utterly unnecessary.
Hands up all those people who don’t give a stuff about the Melbourne Cup.
— Mike Carlton (@MikeCarlton01) November 3, 2019
In fact, the Melbourne Cup is so blatantly cruel — so obviously inhumane and ugly — that people have to do a lot of mental gymnastics to try and argue in its defence.
You know some of these people, because everybody does. Maybe they are your boomer colleagues. Maybe they are your boomer family members. Regardless, you will inevitably stumble into some awkward conversation with them today, and be forced to explain to them why it’s wrong to beat intelligent and sensitive animals while getting sloshed.
So here’s an itemised list of the ways people defend the cup, and why they’re all completely wrong.
“The Horses Don’t Suffer That Much”
Yes, they definitely do, the evidence being, uh, the Melbourne Cup itself, during which jockeys visibly beat horses with whips. According to racing regulations, horses can be whipped a maximum of five times during the majority of the race, but as many times as the jockey likes during the last 100 metres. Whipping is painful and distressing to horses. That is why the jockeys do it.
Then there’s the stuff that you don’t see. Particularly barbaric is the use of ‘tongue ties’, which are used to hold a horse’s tongue in place during the race. As Australian Ethical notes, these ties can cause swelling, distress, bruising and cuts.
"excitement is building" – who will break a leg tomorrow, which horse will die, how many tongue-ties will be used, how many times will the horses be whipped. Exciting stuff. Can't wait#MelbourneCup #nuptothecup https://t.co/LB2C6EhkMx
— Susan Metcalfe (@susanamet) November 4, 2019
The sheer exertion of the horses causes up to an average of 75 percent of them to develop Exercise-Induced Pulmonary Haemorrhage — which means they bleed in their lungs and windpipes. Oh, and of course, if they stumble or strain themselves, they’ll be shot.
Horses have a life expectancy of about 30 years. Most horses retire at the age of 3 or 4. As a recent ABC report discovered, around 4,500 ex-racehorses are slaughtered in abattoirs every year.
“Horses Aren’t Smart, So It Doesn’t Matter”
“Smart” is a relative term. But horses are fast learners, have highly-attuned senses, and good memories. Human babies have none of these attributes. Suggest to your boomer colleague that he should whip a gaggle of babies around a race track every year.
“Horse Pain Isn’t The Same As Human Pain”
It doesn’t have to be exactly the same. As noted Australian ethicist Peter Singer says, pain is the indication of preference. A horse, like any other living creature, would prefer not to be in pain.
6 Melbourne Cups, 6 dead horses:
Verema – snapped leg
Admire Rakti – heart attack
Araldo – broken leg
Red Cadeaux – broken leg
Regal Monarch – injuries sustained after 'horror fall'
The Cliffsofmoher – broken shoulder#LoveHorsesNotRacing #MelbourneCup pic.twitter.com/jNaEpBkp9h
— Animals Australia (@AnimalsAus) November 2, 2019
When you repeatedly cause a horse pain, you deny its preferences. There is no need to deny an animal its preferences just because you want some background noise on while you get blotto.
Either you’re ignoring the horse torture and just getting drunk with your friends while wearing fancy clothes, in which case, horses do not need to be involved. Or you are enjoying horse torture. There is a name for that. It is called being a sociopath.
“Let People Do What They Want”
In most cases, people should be allowed to enjoy themselves however they so please. This does not extend to cases in which that pleasure comes at the expense of non-consensual suffering. Everybody knows this. It’s why nobody is friends with murderers, or people who play ‘Wonderwall’ at parties when nobody has asked them to.
“Working Class People Like Horse-Racing, So It’s Elitist To Criticise It”
The Melbourne Cup is clearly not only the playground of the working class. You can tell, because everyone dresses like they’ve been fooled by an elaborate and magical tailor from the town over. Also, to assume that all working-class people like horse-racing is to A) be incorrect and B) to objectify an entire class strata.
“Aren’t There More Important Things To Worry About?”
Sure. There are lots of terrible things in the world. Let’s also worry about those other terrible things. But today is the Melbourne Cup, so it is a good time to worry about this particular terrible thing.
“Why Not Worry About The Safety Of Horses On Other Days Of The Year?”
Sure, I would love to do that. Let’s keep this conversation going all year. I’ll fly the “Don’t Get Off On Animal Torture” flag any day you’d like. And in fact, people have been worrying about it for years and years.
“Why Do You Care So Much About This?”
Because suffering is bad and should be avoided.
Joseph Earp is a staff writer at Junkee. He Tweets @Joseph_O_Earp.