Megan Gale has decided to shun the Melbourne Cup next Tuesday, amid animal cruelty claims.
The 44-year-old has been a regular among the marquees at Flemington for many years but offered no explanation as to why she won't attend next week when she announced her absence on Thursday.
It follows last month's withdrawal of US singer Taylor Swift and actress Lana Condor who last week pulled the plug on her attendance, both citing scheduling issues.
Taylor Swift boycotts the Melbourne Cup
In September, fans praised Taylor Swift for pulling out of the Melbourne Cup, after they had pleaded with her to rethink her appearance at the event.
"Regrettably, Taylor is no longer able to make it to this year's Melbourne Cup. Changes to her Asian promo schedule have made it logistically impossible for her to be here,” music booking agency Mushroom Events said.
Prior to her cancellation, animal rights groups had accused her of "endorsing animal abuse" as six horses have died at the Cup since 2013, and now that she will no longer perform, PETA have applauded her decision.
"Taylor Swift dumped the Melbourne Cup and PETA couldn't be happier. The event is riddled with horse breakdowns and death and is linked to the bloody horse-slaughter industry, which PETA most recently exposed in South Korea,” Emily Rice from the organisation said in a public statement.
"None of this cruelty is consistent with the kind person we know Taylor to be. PETA - whose motto reads, in part, that 'animals are not ours to use for entertainment' - opposes speciesism, which is a human-supremacist worldview."
Melbourne Cup shrouded in controversy
Melbourne Cup has become notorious among animal rights activists, after the spate of horse deaths at the event in recent years.
Last year, Irish horse The Cliffsofmoher was put down after falling early on in the race, sparking ongoing protests, while the previous year, horse Regal Monarch was euthanised after a fall on Melbourne Cup day, following the deaths of Red Cadeaux in 2015, Admire Rakti and Araldo in 2014, and Verema in 2013 after they each sustained injuries on the race day.
In the wake of The Cliffsofmoher’s death, Racing Victoria said, “This was an unfortunate incident that happens infrequently, with Victoria having one of the best safety records in.
But Victoria’s Premier Daniel Andrews doesn't care about the trackside celebrity headcount.
"The Melbourne Cup is not about so-called big celebs visiting us," he told reporters.
"It's about ordinary, hard-working Victorian families who will be there in record numbers and many hundreds of thousands more who will watch the race that stops the nation.
"The Spring Carnival is an extremely important part of our major events calendar."
Mr Andrews is not attending the event himself, but said that has nothing to do with police bracing for an increased number of protesters outside Flemington Racecourse.
Animal cruelty claims
Activists from the Coalition for the Protection of Racehorses are planning to make themselves heard outside the gates each day of the Melbourne Cup Carnival, as well as during Monday's Melbourne Cup parade.
The group said it's been inundated with support since ABC's 7.30 program broadcast footage last week of racehorses being sent to a slaughterhouse and allegations of animal cruelty at the facility.
Mr Andrews stressed horse welfare is taken very seriously in all codes of racing, pointing to Racing Victoria this week announcing a $25 million boost to fund an expanded welfare program.
Dating app Bumble is the only carnival sponsor to make a donation to the program, pledging $130,000.
"We were heartbroken by what we saw on the 7.30 report," spokeswoman Michelle Battersby said.
"I don't think we were in a position where we could ignore that."
Federal Greens MP Adam Bandt said even people who enjoy the races are increasingly worried about how animals are treated behind the scenes.
A royal commission into the racing industry could resolve the issue, he added.
"What seems on the face of it to be a good day out for everyone is actually built on a lot of cruelty," he told reporters in Melbourne.
The Andrews government also faced heat from Victorian Greens MP Tim Read in parliament, for allowing racehorses to be whipped.
Racing Minister Martin Pakula said whether horses are whipped is a matter for Racing Australia, as the issue needs to be dealt with nationally.
Extra reporting by AAP
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