Faculty students win essay prize at Not the Melbourne Cup event

6 November 2012

'Eleanor Nurse and Elise Burgess, Dr Fiona Probyn-Rapsy, Professor Annamarie Jagose, Professor Barry Spurr and Anna Sanders-Robinson and Zuzana Kocourkova
L-R: Eleanor Nurse and Elise Burgess from Voiceless, Dr Fiona Probyn-Rapsy, Head of School Professor Annamarie Jagose, Professor Barry Spurr and prize-winners Anna Sanders-Robinson and Zuzana Kocourkova.

Two students from the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences have won the inaugural Vox Animalia Student Essay Prize, which was presented at this afternoon's 'Not the Melbourne Cup' event.

Hosted by the University of Sydney Human Animal Research Network (HARN), Not the Melbourne Cup's purpose is to make people think about horse-racing from the animals' perspective, and the essay competition urged students across a number of faculties to answer the question 'why do animals matter in contemporary Australia?'

Zuzana Kocourkova, a third year Bachelor of Arts student majoring in History, won the first place essay prize of $1,500.

Zuzana, who is "passionate about animal rights", answered the question by noting that "it is only through speciesist linguistic and legal frameworks homo sapiens have imposed upon animals that puts them in a position to judge whether other animals matter.

"I assert that because of this oppressive framework mankind has created, animals are important, as it is our moral imperative to rectify the vulnerability that is imposed over non-humans."

The second place prize of $500 was awarded to first year Bachelor of Arts student Anna Sanders-Robinson, for her comparison between animal abuse and domestic abuse.

Coordinator of HARN, Dr Fiona Probyn-Rapsy, said of the prize, "the Human Animal Research Network recognises that although animal studies is an emergent field in terms of our disciplines here at the University of Sydney, there is also a thriving and active student interest in animal issues. It was this student interest that we wanted to draw attention to."

And given the doubling in size of this years 'Not the Melbourne Cup' event, it appears that this concern is growing.

"The public sees the surface glamour of Cup Day," says HARN member and Professor of Poetry and Poetics Barry Spurr"The hidden reality of the horse-racing industry is very different.

"Every aspect of the horse racing industry - breeding, training, racing under the whip and the disposing of horses - has disturbing and questionable aspects from an animal welfare perspective."

Probyn-Rapsy adds, "'Not the Melbourne Cup' recognises the wildly contradictory relationships that we have with animals. On the one hand race goers speak about the beauty of these 'magnificent' animals, then they watch them being whipped along the race track, ignoring that and all the behind the scenes cruelty that goes on."

So, when the horses were heading down the home straight, Spurr says those at Not the Melbourne Cup were toasting horses and their "beauty and dignity, and the honour that is due to them".

The $20 cover charge for 'Not the Melbourne Cup', which included for the guests vegan food and champagne, will be given to horse charities, many of which house and look after ex-race horses. To donate contact

Prize money for the essay competition was provided by Voiceless: the Animal Protection Institute

Contact: Kate Mayor

Phone: 02 9351 2208 0434 561 056

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