Sit Down, Stop Whinging, Eat Your Pie And Pick A Pony


There’s no revelation in the fact that we humans, for the most part, do not have stable ethical standards.

Although we like to think that each individual snowflake of consciousness has its own line in the sand separating right from wrong, we do not. There is not a single one of us whose moral code doesn’t at all falter when the faculties that we suppose govern our ability to reason go into battle against the drivers of passion.

One such great driver of passion Down Under is the Melbourne Cup, and it doesn’t matter if you’re a gluten-free coffee enema Surry Hills vegan student, or if you kill underweight livestock at factory farms for a living: The Melbourne Cup is a national day of fun for everyone.

As is tradition, yesterday my mates, colleagues, and family members chose from a list of horse (Equus ferus caballus) names and allocated an arbitrary amount of money to odds on whether or not that horsie would run faster than the other horsies. Maybe we’d win, maybe we’d lose – but it’s not about that. It’s about enjoying yourself, having a beer with mates, and engaging in a little healthy competition.

This presupposes the health of the competition itself, which when it comes to the Melbourne Cup, is lacking to say the least. As mental health week was last month, not this month, I’m going to leave the discussion on the delusional thinking that we ALL require to justify our passions for another article. Despite this being Horse Week, there is nothing healthy about the facts:

• 15,000 of the 31,000 racehorses in Australia are sent to the slaughterhouse every year.

Research conducted by CPR at Echuca Saleyards and Pakenham Saleyards indicates that between 75 per cent and 85 per cent of all racehorses (thoroughbreds and standardbreds) are bought by known kill buyers. Only 300 in every 1,000 horses bred for racing ever race, which means that while a few end up on farms or at pony school, most of them end up feeding Fido or French people.

• The industry refers to horses who lack profit potential as ‘wastage’.

How obvious it is that the horse racing industry pushes our standards of what does and does not constitute cruelty? How simply it can be explained away as just a bit of fun? How effortlessly it is that we, on one day of the year, concoct empathetic myths of how the horses love what they do, that they’re treated like royalty, that the losers go to a better place, among other throwaways straight out of The Hunger Games, in order to do away with the neighsayers.

There is no question as to the abject barbarism of a small man with a voice like a tin whistle whipping a horse until it is running as fast as it possibly can. And that’s a best-case scenario, for as above, most horses don’t make it to the Melbourne Cup.

But days like The Melbourne Cup are just like any other exercise in smiling, good-intention-laden groupthink: we pretend that the plastic toys under the tree weren’t assembled by under-aged wage slaves in India, that the Christmas Ham wasn’t the smartest animal on the farm, or that horses don’t feel pain, happiness, sadness, the rush of sunshine’s warmth on the nape and the smell of morning dew on cut grass.

No, by and large, horses are not real things with real feelings. Horses exist purely on a piece of paper wedged between dollar signs and champagne flutes.

I’ve worked behind a couple of bars, and the last one that I worked at sold hot-dogs late into the evening. In my own head I used to think Leo would smile at my late night testament to his delving into the genre of sci-fi. I didn’t pour beers late into the evenings on Fridays and Saturdays, I served hot-dogs.

I performed meat-ception: lining stomachs with the lining of stomachs. There are a lot of great horse jokes to be made while you’re a couple drinks in, serving what is probably horse meat to someone who quite probably still fondly remembers their high school ‘horse phase’.

A customer once asked: ‘How come hot dogs are so much juicier and softer than normal meat? I’m a vegetarian except when I’m drunk’.

She was drunk – the tomato sauce and mustard mix dripped down the outsides of her wrists as she testified to the treat’s tender taste.

I couldn’t help myself:

“Because of what’s in them.”

“Oh, what’s in these?”

“The softest parts on any animal’s body: innards, lips, and anus”.

Launched in 2004, New Matilda is one of Australia's oldest online independent publications. It's focus is on investigative journalism and analysis, with occasional smart arsery thrown in for reasons of sanity. New Matilda is owned and edited by Walkley Award and Human Rights Award winning journalist Chris Graham.