The Cliffsofmoher's Melbourne Cup death sparks furious debate over race horse welfare in Australia

The race that stops a nation is today being called the race that divides a nation amid a growing backlash over the death of a horse in yesterday's Melbourne Cup.

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    Cliffsofmoher’s death has led to some question how much transparency the sport truly has.

    The Cliffsofmoher was euthanised after fracturing a shoulder early in the race - something officials say was a kindness, but animal welfare groups say the problem is more widespread.

    After commentators commented prior to the race that the Irish Thoroughbred was "melting like an ice cream", images surfaced of his final moments before vets put him down.

    Racing Victoria's general manager of integrity Jamie Stier said it was the best option.

    "Often it is most appropriate and kindest thing to have the horse euthanised," Stier said.

    "It's one of those most unfortunate things that happens in racing and sad as it is of course we're extending our sympathies to the owners."

    But the five-year-old's death has prompted widespread public outrage over the treatment and welfare of horses in the racing industry.

    Racing's defenders today say the horses are cared for and loved and that people need look no further than The Cliffsofmoher's dismayed jockey as proof.

    But RSPCA Victoria CEO Dr Liz Walker says its supporters need to look at recent numbers.

    "For three of the last four years on Melbourne Cup day we've had a death of at least one horse," she said.

    "This is a community saying this isn’t right and we need to do better."

    In 2014, Admire Rakti collapsed and died in its stall after the Melbourne Cup. The very same day, another Cup runner, Araldo, was put down after it fractured its leg kicking a fence.

    Cliffs of Moher will undergo a post mortem.

    The RSPCA says death and injury isn't limited to Cup Day but it's not well documented and they're calling for industry wide change.

    In Australia a racing horse dies on average, every three days a from injury sustained in a race.

    "We can manage these things but we need to be open and transparent and accountable and right now I think it's fair to say when it comes to injury and mortality we don’t have that transparency."

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