Fashion, animal welfare share the spotlight at Caulfield Cup

The races are always about high-voltage fashion, but at Saturday’s Caulfield Cup, the issue of animal welfare shared the spotlight.

Overcast and at times rainy conditions kept fashions on the restrained side, while several celebrities were also happy to share their views on the controversy.

Actress Olympia Valance at the Caulfield CupCredit:AAP Image/James Ross

AFL great Chris Judd, in the Stella Artois marquee with wife Bec, who wore a hologram jumpsuit and cape by Toni Maticevski, said although he didn’t see the ABC’s 7.30 on Thursday, he had listened to other reports about the alleged mistreatment of retired racehorses.

"Some of the stuff just sounds horrible … they’re such beautiful animals, you hope they get treated humanely and well post-racing,” he said.

He didn’t think calls by activists to boycott race meetings was the answer.

“There’s a discussion being had, and it’s been brought to light, which is the first step. There’s heaps of money floating around in the racing industry so you’d hope and expect they can create an environment where the horses are being treated humanely.”

Although the controversy loomed over Caulfield, the quota for high fashion was well and truly met with Australian international models Georgia Fowler, in nude-hued Fendi, and Shanina Shaik, in a classic black tailored dress with a veiled headpiece.

Georgia FowlerCredit:AAP Image/James Ross

Shaik, who features in a new campaign to revive Australian brand JAG, said usually at this time of year she’d be in full preparation mode for the Victoria’s Secret show, which has been shelved after a backlash over a lack of diversity and portrayal of women as sex kittens.

On the question of diversity in fashion, she said: “With knowledge we can change things … I think we should look at the positives and how can we better a situation.”

Shaik drew parallels between the push for diversity and more transparency in racing.

“I don’t support animal cruelty and I love animals and it’s important with the knowledge of this that we can move forward and better the welfare and safety of all horses … many of us will do all that we can to change things.”

AFL champion and Indigenous activist Adam Goodes, who was at Caulfield in his capacity as an ambassador for Caulfield Cup partner David Jones, said it was hard to ignore the revelations about the industry aired this week.

“I don’t think anyone agrees with it, we all have personal opinions about how

Shanina ShaikCredit:Image Supplied

it makes us feel. I can speak on behalf of myself and David Jones and say we will always look at our relationships with our sponsorships, with our events, and make sure whether it’s ethical resourcing or animal welfare that it’s a high priority.

"Aussies are good at having a good time and having a drink, but I hope with the reports that if you do come to the races that people do understand there is this other issue that comes with coming to the races."

Goodes said one of his greatest achievements working with the retailer has been collaborating on a reconciliation action plan to increase the engagement with Indigenous communities, suppliers and personnel within the 180-year-old department store.

Hisacclaimed film about the racism he suffered during his football career was reaching audiences from London to Toronto. “We can learn what happened to me and in communities when it comes to causal racism … I don’t think it’s going to change tomorrow, or in two years time but we can educate our children, our parents and our grandparents. It’s not about an end point, it’s about a conversation.”

At the fashions on the field competition, the focus was on the frocks, although entrants said they were aware of the controversies of the week.

Em Scodarello, who runs the online community It’s All About The Sash, said sustainability had become a huge issue in the competition and the animal welfare issues had not dramatically affected the competition regulars. “[The coverage] only happens at this time of year – if they were really serious about it they would go on about it all year. The industry has defended itself perfectly, in my opinion.”

Regular racegoer Suzanne Brown said it was possible to love the racing fashion and be mindful of the issues. “There is good and bad in all industries. I have seen some wonderful affection between the men and women and their horses.”

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