Nup to the Cup. Taylor Swift reportedly pulled out of performing at the Melbourne Cup because of ‘scheduling conflicts’ — but there are other theories. Picture: Kevin Winter/Getty Images for RADIO.COM
Nup to the Cup. Taylor Swift reportedly pulled out of performing at the Melbourne Cup because of ‘scheduling conflicts’ — but there are other theories. Picture: Kevin Winter/Getty Images for RADIO.COM

The Cup has become Australia’s toughest gig

Suddenly it's no longer the AFL or NRL Grand Final that have become the most dangerous gig for a performer in Australia.

Now any musician who agrees to sing at a horse racing event come Cup season is being forced to weigh up their hefty pay cheque with the potential heftier backlash from animal lovers.

Taylor Swift was set to be this year's ultra high profile Melbourne Cup musical guest, but pulled out due to "scheduling conflicts" that may or may not be code for the barrage of anti-horse racing messages she received from fans in the wake of the announcement.

After last week's 7.30 special report on race horses being tortured in abattoirs, Swift's team are probably thanking their lucky stars.

In the wake of the ghastly footage airing, Australian Idol star Anthony Callea, who was in place to sing Advance Australia Fair at the Cup, took to social media to share his stance on the matter, writing, "Like many Australians, I watched the ABC's 7:30 Report episode last Thursday night and was shocked. I believe that we all should have a better awareness and support a movement in the industry towards positive change and ensuring that this appalling behaviour is eradicated."

Callea continued, "With my impending commitment to the entertainment line up on Melbourne Cup day, I have carefully considered this and to offer my support in this change, have decided to donate my performance fee to an equine welfare and rehabilitation organisation. This I hope will help them continue their work in ensuring the safety and future of these beautiful animals.

"I know this will not satisfy all, but I do hope in a time of differing opinions across many aspects of our society, that the singing of the National Anthem will unite us in our differences, and help celebrate and showcase my hometown of Melbourne and our beautiful country on the world stage."

Callea made some salient points, notable, that you cannot satisfy everyone.

As is the way of social media, he's copped a mixture of praise for his gesture and criticism for not going far enough. Either way, his aired conundrum is now one faced by all Australian celebrities.

DJ Havana Brown, who has long attended racing events, declined invitations this year after going vegan and saying that she feels the two do not align.

"I've done a bit of research on horseracing and I don't particularly want to support it," Brown told Confidential last week.

 

Kelly Rowland performing at The Everest race day at Royal Randwick. She was not spared the pressure that has been brought to bear on other singers who perform at racing events. Picture: Matrix Media Group
Kelly Rowland performing at The Everest race day at Royal Randwick. She was not spared the pressure that has been brought to bear on other singers who perform at racing events. Picture: Matrix Media Group

US singer Kelly Rowland flew into Sydney last week to perform at the Everest, and while she avoided the online flack targeted towards Swift, she was met with an open letter from animal rights group PETA that ended with the line "the Australian public is increasingly condemning horseracing … we understand it's hard to gauge the appropriateness of an event when you're touring abroad, but we can assure you that an event profiting from cruelty to horses is an unfit venue for your talents and kindness."

Australian singer Ricki-Lee Coulter also performed at the event over the weekend, and amid social media comments on how beautiful she looked were those who wrote, "didn't realise you supported animal cruelty" and "devasted you support this".

New Myer ambassador Asher Keddie has already said she won't be trackside, reportedly due to her personal issues with horse racing. And networking app Bumble, who have a marquee in this year's Melbourne Cup Birdcage, are also contending with this issue, and have committed to making a $130,000 donation to Off the Track to support retired racehorses.

 

Asher Keddie (third from right, next to CEO John King) with Myer Ambassadors Rachael Finch, Sarsha Chisholm, Elyse Knowles and Kris Smith. The actor took part in a Spring Fashion Preview for the store but will not appear at the races herself. Picture Stefan Postles
Asher Keddie (third from right, next to CEO John King) with Myer Ambassadors Rachael Finch, Sarsha Chisholm, Elyse Knowles and Kris Smith. The actor took part in a Spring Fashion Preview for the store but will not appear at the races herself. Picture Stefan Postles

 

As it stands, this is now the tightrope any public figure who accepts money to perform at, or even attend, racing events is going to have to deal with.

How influencers, WAGs and reality TV stars enjoy their five minutes of fame choose to deal with the Birdcage blowback this year will be interesting to see. Because even if they missed the harrowing footage, they'll have no choice but to register the signs and shouts of protesters as they make their way into the track.

Because as we now know, it's not so #blessed for everyone, or every animal, at the track.

 

 

Cameron Adams is News Corp Australia's national music writer.

cameron.adams@news.com.au

@cameron_adams