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Speech: The horse racing industry

Speeches in Parliament
Mehreen Faruqi 10 Nov 2020

I rise to speak on an animal welfare matter that has captured the country's attention this fortnight. The 2020 Melbourne Cup claimed the life of Anthony Van Dyck, the latest victim of a race that supposedly stops the nation. This death was heart-wrenching, but sadly no surprise at all. This was not a freak accident or an unforeseeable outcome. This is just the brutal reality of horseracing. The cup has killed seven horses since 2013, including Verema, Admire Rakti, Araldo, Red Cadeaux, Regal Monarch and The Cliffsofmoher. These horses are just the tip of the iceberg. Away from the glamour of the first Tuesday of November, one horse dies every three days on Australian racetracks. There are many invisible victims we don't even find out about, the ones killed during trials and those that end up at abattoirs and knackeries as so-called wastage. These are the ones that will stay anonymous, until the government stops dragging its heels and funds a national horse register.

Horseracing kills, and for what: a flutter, fame and fortune, fun, tradition? The gambling fuelled horseracing industry callously uses horses as fodder for its profits. Weak-willed politicians, addicted to gambling revenues and under the influence of the gaming and racing lobbies, don't make a sound or don't lift a finger to change the industry. They all have blood on their hands. So powerful is this industry that, while almost every other sport and community activity shut down due to COVID-19 restrictions, the horses—and the greyhounds, for that matter—kept racing. The industry continued to cash cheques and profit off the backs of animals for so-called entertainment. No animal deserves to die for the sake of a bet, for fun or, indeed, for tradition.

Killing horses and greyhounds for entertainment is barbaric. Last year we all saw the gut-wrenching ABC expose on horse cruelty, where racehorses met their grisly end in slaughterhouses after being beaten, prodded and electrocuted. Assurances were given and promises were made that racing authorities would take animal welfare seriously—more investigations, more commitments. Then, just a couple of weeks ago, it was revealed that former racehorses are still being sent to slaughterhouses in New South Wales for pet food. On top of this, new research from the Coalition for the Protection of Racehorses estimates that thousands of ex-racehorses are being slaughtered every year, according to CCTV footage captured under cover. Every single horseracing authority in this country should hang its head in shame. All you've given us is broken promise after broken promise. Your time is up. At the end of the day, every single horse deserves a dignified retirement and a happy life from birth to natural death. It is criminal that horses that make tens of thousands of dollars for their owners are mercilessly killed when they stop turning a profit.

This cruel industry might not want to change, but horseracing is an anachronism that is becoming less relevant by the day. Despite the gambling industry propaganda, some 47 percent of the respondents to an Essential Report survey this month agreed that they had become less interested in the cup because of their concerns about animal cruelty. That figure is up from 29 per cent just two years ago. Hundreds of people joined me at my Nup to the Cup online rally this year. This is what some of them said: 'I boycotted the cup years ago when I realised how horrific and vast animal cruelty in the industry still is.' 'My institute has stopped any Melbourne Cup festivities in the workplace for the first time, which is showing a change in attitudes towards horseracing.' There are dozens more that show the tide of opinion is changing.

There was a time when I thought that the horseracing industry could actually be fixed. I'm now certain that it must be shut down. It's clearer than ever that, like the greyhound racing industry, the horseracing industry cannot be trusted or fixed. These gambling fuelled industries can't change and they won't change. It's on us now to be a voice for animals, to say no to the cruelty of horseracing, enough to the Melbourne Cup, and yes to ending commercial racing.

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