Plummeting track attendances, record-low TV ratings and a celebrity drought at this year’s Melbourne Cup Carnival have revealed an inconvenient truth for the racing industry: horse racing is out of fashion with celebrities and the community alike who will no longer turn a blind eye to its death toll and cruelty.
The sharp decline in crowds at Flemington saw only 45,000 attend Oaks Day, which once surpassed Melbourne Cup day itself in attendances and was spruiked as the carnival’s day of fashion. This was a significant drop from the pre-Covid 2019 crowd of 57,296 and the lowest Oaks Day attendance since 1986.
Overall, there has been a drop in attendance of around 10 per cent to all the major race days of the Spring Carnival since the Caulfield Cup.
“The Melbourne Cup is now a cruel reminder to the public of the seven racehorses that died during the race over the past decade,” said the Coalition for the Protection of Racehorses campaign director Elio Celotto.
“The public also now knows of the horrific fate that lies ahead for many racehorses who are injured or not deemed profitable and will be prematurely killed out of expediency.”
“No major celebrity in 2022 wants to align themselves with animal cruelty and that is what the horse racing industry now represents,” he said.
While the racing industry might attempt to blame the weather for this year’s dismal crowds, the Melbourne Cup’s television ratings also nosedived this year drawing the lowest viewership since records began 20 years ago.
A Lonergan Research poll commissioned by the Greens found that 59 per cent surveyed thought horse racing was cruel while 54 per cent believed horses should not be raced for gambling and entertainment.
Despite governments and the racing industry continuing to prop up the Melbourne Cup while ignoring the industry’s death toll of at least 139 horses killed on track over the past year, the event has lost its social licence with the community and the growing number of celebrities who are publicly expressing their opposition to horse racing.
The dearth of international celebrities at this year’s carnival shows they no longer wish to risk any backlash from being associated with an event mired by animal cruelty and death. This trend follows pop star Taylor Swift’s cancellation of her scheduled performance at the Melbourne Cup in 2019 after social media criticism.
During this year’s Melbourne Cup Day, the #NupToTheCup hashtag was one of the top trending topics on Twitter with thousands condemning the industry’s animal welfare record while talkback radio was swamped with callers asking why the event is still run.
Radio host Abie Chatfield said she turned down a “a lot of money” for a paid appearance at the races and chastised other celebrities for attending the event on social media. TV host and singer David Campbell and writer Phillip Adams were also among the diversity of voices saying “Nup To The Cup” on social media.
“The huge success of Nup To The Cup events across Australia this week has shown that Australians can still celebrate on the day without having to condone a so-called sport that kills animals,” Mr Celotto said.
“We are more enlightened as a society these days than to celebrate cruelty out of tradition,” he said. “The Melbourne Cup – and horse racing as a sport – has run its race.
“The racing industry has tried to overturn growing opposition by introducing some token safety measures but it doesn’t go anywhere near fixing the cruelty of racing or addressing the massive numbers of horses killed every year just because they no longer bring in profits for their owners.”
“Australians are appalled and furious that at least one horse died on average on an Australian racetrack every 2.5 days over the past year.”