The man in the suit — Elio Celotto on the life of a horse racing protester

by RUSSELL JACKSON | 27 October 2016
Cross-posted from The Guardian
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As the Melbourne Cup gets under way on Tuesday, horseracing protester Elio Celotto will be enjoying a far different day of festivities to racegoers

Caslon Quote Left BlackIt’s Monday 2 November, 2015, and the intersection of Flinders and Swanston is closed off for the annual Melbourne Cup parade. The air is thick with the smell of horse manure and the abrasive, tinny sound of a budget PA system with too much treble blasting out race calls of years gone by.

Between two long barricades on Swanston Street passes a motorcade of horse trainers, jockeys and those strange celebrity “ambassadors” that Melbourne’s Spring carnival thrusts forward each year to an apparently receptive and engaged audience – the hundreds of thousands of Melburnians who pour through the gates of racecourses around Melbourne to bet, be seen and most of all it increasingly seems, get thoroughly trousered.

On one side of the crowd, which is never more than two or three spectators deep at any given point, stands a tall and elegantly-suited man of about 50. He could pass for, I think to myself, a solicitor or an accountant from a nearby building, or potentially a racing fan. He seems mildly perplexed but calm as he paces past a dozen police patrolling the festivities.

Directly parallel, outside Young and Jackson’s hotel, stands a scruffy, sunburnt man of about the same age. He’s hurling abuse. “You should be ashamed of yourselves,” he bellows across the parade at one point. I politely inquire whether I can ask him a few questions about his objections to what he’s seeing, a request he declines with a loud and almost sarcastic, “No comment,” and then, after a brief moment’s reflection, a far more emphatic “Fuck off!”

The man in the suit, I find out ofter listening to him read through a megaphone the names of 127 horses he says have died on Australian race tracks in the preceding 12 months, is Elio Celotto, a veteran horse racing protestor and the head of the Coalition for the Protection of Racehorses (CPR).

A small but determined group, CPR formed in 2008 as a single issue animal rights organisation and continue to peacefully protest at major race meets, lobbying the racing industry for major reform because, they say, nobody else will. Continue reading »

Horse racing protester Elio Celotto (left) of the Coalition for the Protection of Racehorses will spend Melbourne Cup day staging a peaceful protest near Flemington Racecourse. Photograph: Supplied.