Vegan activists with signs including "horse racing kills" have greeted punters arriving for the annual Christmas at the Races event at Tauranga Racecourse today.

When the Bay of Plenty Times arrived about 12.30am there were seven protesters from the Tauranga Vegan Activist group waving signs outside the gates to the racecourse.

They attracted the attention of people in cars crawling past on congested Cameron Rd and people arriving at the racing event.

Racing Tauranga chairman Frank Vosper said he was not aware of the protest.

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He said there were 3500 people "having a great day" at Christmas at the Races and Tauranga had put on beautiful weather for it.

Protester Nina Lopez said they hoped their peaceful demonstration would inspire people attending the races and those driving past to think differently about horse racing.

Protesters at the Tauranga Races: from left, Alexander Wilkinson, Nina Lopez, Coby Campbell, James St John, Catherine Storey, Donovan Allen, and Sam Bhaduri. Photo /Andrew Warner
Protesters at the Tauranga Races: from left, Alexander Wilkinson, Nina Lopez, Coby Campbell, James St John, Catherine Storey, Donovan Allen, and Sam Bhaduri. Photo /Andrew Warner

She said the group decided to protest this year after the public reaction to the death of horse The Cliffsofmoher in this year's Melbourne Cup race.

The group, who have also protested rodeos, said they objected to horses being made to race, the treatment of racehorses and were concerned about racing-related horse deaths and injuries.

"We are advocating against seeing horses as an object or unit of production or entertainment," Lopez said.

"You can dress up and get drunk and have a good time in a field with your mates any time, it doesn't need to involve animals."

Fellow protester Sam Bhaduri said there were lots of ways to enjoy racing without involving animals - cars, bikes, even the annual lawn mower race in Omokoroa.

"This is the 21st century, we don't need animal racing as entertainment."

They said they knew today they were "the weird ones" and most people would not agree with their stance, but they believed the tide was turning and people were realising veganism was about more than what people ate.