'Nup' to the Cup
Updated: Feb 1
Content Warning: horse racing, alcohol, violence, domestic violence.
I've been expressing my opinions against horse racing within the comfort of my familiar circles for a few years now, and these have been largely based on the premise of animal cruelty and exploitation, and the way in which the Melbourne Cup Carnival enhances consumerism and materialism. I believe the sport itself is antiquated and is run by an industry riddled with the potential for unethical treatment of horses and humans alike.
With the revelations exposed by the ABC recently into the horrendously unethical treatment of race horses within the Australian racing industry, I'm finding it difficult to remain silent publicly when discussions surrounding participation in horse racing events, or gambling on them, is the primary topic.
We know through these recent revelations that horse racing is incredibly cruel, and even contemplating writing about such themes fills me with despair. What I would like to highlight instead is the way in which participation in horse racing influences our health related behaviours; namely alcohol consumption and violence.
Alcohol consumption is one of the leading contributors to the prevalence of disease, illness or injury in Australia, particularly when we're looking at binge drinking (AIHW, 2018). It's engrained within our culture, and it's a large part of our celebrations and commiserations; the Melbourne Cup Carnival is no exception to this social norm. In fact, statistics over the years show that Melbourne Cup Day is one of the most problematic days in our calendar for alcohol consumption and related harm (VicHealth, 2014).
This isn't really surprising when we look at some of the sponsors for the Melbourne Cup Carnival:
- Furphy - a major partner;
- Seppelt Wines - a major partner;
- Absolut. - an official partner;
- GH.Mumm Champagne - an official partner; and
- Jim Beam - an official partner (Flemington, 2019).
DrinkWise, a not for profit organisation whose 'primary focus is to help bring about a healthier and safer drinking culture in Australia', is also on board as an 'Event & Program Partner' (DrinkWise, 2019; Flemington, 2019). At first glance this seems really positive, however, when looking a little further into this I discovered something I've been taught to be critical of throughout my public health studies: in addition to government funding, DrinkWise relies on "voluntary industry contributions" from across the alcohol sector (DrinkWise, 2019). Receiving funds from alcohol companies who promote and profit off alcohol consumption seems a little contradictory to me. In saying this, none of the alcohol companies sponsoring the Melbourne Cup Carnival, are listed as contributors to DrinkWise on their website. Nonetheless, I'm not sold.
It's also important to recognise that advertising regulations play a part in this, as it's completely legal to advertise alcohol during televised sport Australia wide. We see it in the lead up to AFL Grand Final Day, which flows through to the Racing Carnival. This advertising has been found to directly influence the way we consume alcohol on big sporting occasions, with ongoing impacts to our attitudes towards alcohol consumption in general (Baker, 2019).
These affiliations and regulations increase the accessibility of alcohol at the events themselves, and promote the consumption of alcohol to those watching at home. We're also huge fans of watching sport at the pub, and when all of this is mixed with competition, exacerbated by financial interest where gambling is involved, is it any wonder Melbourne Cup Day is so problematic? We're practically being programmed to drink to excess.
The ramifications of this can be devastating. Excessive alcohol consumption has a direct relationship with violence and assaults, and is known to double the risk of family and domestic violence. Given the increased participation in excessive alcohol consumption during the Melbourne Cup Carnival, this rate undoubtedly spikes around this time (Miller, et al., 2016). This is particularly concerning when we know the rates of family and domestic violence are already so high in Australia, with approximately one woman per week losing her life as a result of it (Destroy the Joint, 2019).
It doesn't take a lot to see the affiliation between alcohol, violence and Melbourne Cup Day. A quick Google search will give you enough insight to determine that this is all incredibly problematic. The Melbourne Cup Carnival, and other horse racing events, are as cruel to humans as they are to animals. It is a series of events that are built from a foundation of profiting off the potential for people to cause harm to themselves, others and animals - and in 2019, I don't think that's okay.
Here's a lit of things you can do this Melbourne Cup Day that don't support such a horrible event: https://www.australianethical.com.au/news/melbourne-cup-day-if-horse-racing-isnt-your-thing/
Note: This is just my opinion, and I feel it's educated. If you don't agree, that's okay, but I ask you to consider how your participation impacts yourself, those around you, and the animals involved. Please don't come for me.
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. (2018). Alcohol, tobacco & other drugs. Retrieved 21st October 2019, from: https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/alcohol/alcohol-tobacco-other-drugs-australia/contents/drug-types/alcohol
Baker, N., (2019). Alcohol advertising in sports 'fuelling drink culture', according to study. Retrieved 21st October 2019, from: https://www.sbs.com.au/news/alcohol-advertising-in-sports-fueling-drink-culture-according-to-study
Destroy the Joint. (2019). Destroy the Joint. Retrieved 21st November 2019, from: https://www.facebook.com/pg/DestroyTheJoint/community/?ref=page_internal
DrinkWise. (2019). About. Retrieved 21st October 2019, from: https://drinkwise.org.au/about-us/about/#
Flemington. (2019). Melbourne Cup Carnival Sponsors. Retrieved 21st October 2019, from: https://www.flemington.com.au/footer-links/melbourne-cup-carnival-sponsors
Miller, P., Cox, E., Costa, B., Mayshak, R., Walker, A., & Hyder, S. et al. (2016). Alcohol/Drug-Involved Family Violence in Australia. National Drug Law Enforcement Research Fund, 68. Retrieved 21st October 2019, from https://www.ndlerf.gov.au/publications/monographs/monograph-68
VicHealth. (2014). Melbourne Cup worse event for bingeing: sports and alcohol report. Retrieved 21st October 2019, from: https://www.vichealth.vic.gov.au/media-and-resources/media-releases/melbourne-cup-number-one-day-for-bingeing