on air now

Anti-racing protesters say punters are turning away — but we did some fact-checking

3AW Mornings

Anti-racing protesters outside Flemington racecourse claim they’re winning punters over, but are using misleading figures to make their point.

About 150 protesters are waving placards and chanting at the main gates on Epsom Road at today’s Melbourne Cup.

Elio Celotto, spokesman with the Coalition for the Protection of Racehorses, told Tony Jones racegoers had thanked the protesters on their way into the race meeting, and also claims others have said today would be their last visit to the races.

“Certainly a lot of people disagree with us, but there was a lot more people who disagreed with us last year and even the year before,” Mr Celotto said.

“They’re coming around as they’re becoming educated about what really happens in horse racing and after racing.

“We’re seeing the numbers plummet going to the races.

“In the Melbourne Cup Carnival the numbers have plummeted by 25 per cent in the last 10 years and that’s not a good sign when you consider that Melbourne has been booming for those 10 years.”

But those numbers are exaggerated and misleading.

The gap between the biggest and smallest four-day crowd at the Melbourne Cup carnival in the past 11 years is 23.4 per cent (it is less than 18 per cent in the past 10 carnivals).

But, just as critically, that also doesn’t account for seasonal impacts (last year’s Melbourne Cup crowd was the smallest in more than 20 years after it was nearly washed out due to flooding), the closure of half the members precinct to build the new VRC Club Stand, and the impact of crowd-capping from 2007 after organisers decided the event was becoming too big.

Police have warned protesters that attempts to disrupt today’s event would not be tolerated.

“The police have absolutely nothing to fear as far as we’re concerned,” Mr Celotto said. “We have no intention of disrupting the Melbourne Cup whatsoever.

“We want to demonstrate to people that you can have a great day out, you can have lots of fun, you can have a few drinks, but not be party to the exploitation and cruel treatment of racehorses.”

Click PLAY to hear the interview (edited to remove allegations that were corrected immediately by Tony Jones)

(Image: Kelly Defina/Getty Images)

3AW Mornings