I recently received an invitation, as Victoria's 2015 Young Australian of the Year, to attend the Melbourne Cup.
After giving it considered thought, I decided to respectfully decline the Victoria Racing Club's invitation. The reason is because of those individuals who won't be making it to Flemington today.
I love a good day out as much as the next person, but that's not what comes to mind when I think of the Melbourne Cup. I can't help but think of the many thousands of juvenile horses who don't make it to the races each year, who are killed simply because they cannot run fast enough to turn a profit.
I also can't help but think of the young, overworked horses who do make it to the carnival and are pushed to their physical limits with excessive training. Not to mention the whipping. How can using pain to make an animal run faster so punters can make money ever be right?
And I think of those individuals who die at the track, like Admire Rakti, who last year collapsed at the Spring Carnival from cardiac arrest shortly after staggering to the finish line of his final race.
I care about horses. As do many of the riders and handlers who work with them. How could you not develop a bond with such magnificent creatures? I've no doubt the racing industry cares, too, but sadly it would seem only for those horses who are winners.
Tragically, this is an industry where the winners are few and the losers are many.
If the racing industry really wanted to protect animals under their care, wouldn't they ban whips in races? Wouldn't the industry implement alternate options for those 'athletes' who aren't fast enough?
As we've seen this year with the greyhound racing industry -- valuing animals solely on the basis of financial return is a slippery slope that can lead to cruelty, corruption and criminality. That bullets were fired upon the home of the Racing Victoria's chief steward to intimidate him, and traumatise him and his family, reveals how steep that slippery slope is.
It's 2015. Inflicting pain so that a horse will run faster, or killing those who cannot run fast enough, for the sake of gambling or entertainment, is outdated, inhumane and blatantly unnecessary. The young Australians I know want to live in an Australia which recognises that profit should never take priority over animal welfare -- or human decency, for that matter.
While I'm appreciative of the invitation, it's for this reason that the race that apparently stops a nation won't be stopping me. And it seems I won't be alone. When at the end of the carnival the VRC ask themselves why attendances at the Spring Racing Carnival have been at an all time low, they would be foolish not to recognise the obvious.
People love horses more than they love the races -- and they won't stand for them being abused.