Yesterday in Australia, we had the ‘race that stops a nation’, otherwise known as the ‘Melbourne Cup’. It had me pondering as there were several things that did not sit right with me, in the way that this day is celebrated and how it is an event of such significance in Australia, and indeed the world.
Firstly, there is the race itself and what that involves. On a brief look over my social media pages yesterday I saw people sharing and discussing the ways in which the horses in the race are treated – and not just in this race but the racing industry in general. What horses are subjected to in the name of the racing industry is nothing short of barbaric.
Secondly, there are the humans riding the horses – the jockeys. In order to ride they need to meet certain physical and weight restrictions – which can understandably result in all manner of behaviour to achieve this. It may be seen as akin to the modelling industry in many ways, as the physical form is very much needed to be in a certain shape. Controlled eating, drinking & purging behaviours, or medications to assist with rapid weight loss or gain are therefore not unexpected in this realm. This combined with the very physical and imminently dangerous task of manning a very large and fast animal as it hurtles down a track certainly makes for an interesting constellation of health risks.
Would you encourage your child to become a jockey, with this in mind?
And therefore, would we celebrate a day where this behaviour is part and parcel of the preparation?
Thirdly, there are the many Australians that placed bets yesterday on the Melbourne Cup. Some will place one bet a year, but for others gambling is something that can control their lives and can easily become normalised on a day like yesterday. The individual, community and societal impacts of gambling cannot be underestimated – so we need to be very mindful about what it is we engage with and indeed celebrate, as an example to our younger generations on this day (as with every other).
Fourthly, and not surprisingly, there is the culture and manner of celebration that comes along with the Melbourne Cup. It is the race that stops a nation for reasons other than the race itself. Alcohol consumption and celebrating the Melbourne Cup appear to go hand in hand. Spring Racing, and going to ‘the races’ in general is certainly a space where it appears many a sparkling beverage are consumed. I likely don’t need to comment further on the health risks this entails, but once again this day of likely excess is put forward as the way Australians celebrate.
Are we truly proud of this?
There are talks of having a national public holiday for the Melbourne Cup, and therefore it will be very much in our constitution as a celebration. I can see no benefit to anyone in doing this, as it will only further the above clearly destructive behaviours.
I am unsure the exact funding and money that goes into this race, but in a time when budgets are stretched and peoples’ health continues to decline, I can’t help but wonder why we continue to have – and promulgate – these events that promote the opposite to what our society truly needs.
Something for us all to ponder.