Reply to the Special Commission of Inquiry into the Greyhound Racing Industry in NSW.

A number of questions are posed in the Issues paper on overbreeding and wastage. The fact that certain of these questions needed to be included in the issues paper reinforces the problems plaguing the industry.

A transparent, professional industry with nothing to hide would have clear documentation of:

  • The average length of a racing greyhound’s career
  • The average number of starts for a greyhound during his/her career
  • The numbers of greyhounds needing to be trained to maintain fields of 8 runners.

Greyhounds are members of a gentle breed of dog and only a proportion of them have an inclination to chase or race (as evidenced in part by the numbers of dogs killed). If bred for the industry, the rest will need to be adopted into homes or killed. It is completely doubtful and unrealistic to believe that the industry can continue to exist without “wastage” and without law breaking thugs being involved.

The industry has a very secretive and recalcitrant culture. Whilst new and clever, perhaps even more humane strategies may be proposed by those in the industry, it is doubtful, they will be implemented since the culture is one of not believing there is a need to uphold the law. This is supported by frequent findings of dog doping, of course the live baiting, and dogs being punched, dragged, beaten etc.

Moreover, there are concerns regarding the industry that go beyond the number of healthy and young dogs killed. There are many, many instances of deliberate animal cruelty being part and parcel of the industry.

Of relevance, there is an established research base showing a predictable relationship between cruelty to animals and aggression towards humans. This has been referred to as “The Link”. See Gullone (2012).

Animal cruelty happens for a number of reasons. These can include achieving some desired end (e.g., live baiting so that dogs run faster). For the perpetrator, the suffering of the animal is an inconsequential part of achieving their goal. When a lack of consideration or care for the suffering of the victim is present, the perpetrator has demonstrated a significant lack of empathy. This is also true of perpetrators of aggression and violence against other humans.

The self-conscious emotion of empathy serves as a bridge to the emotional states of others. As a social species, perspective taking and concern about others’ distress are central to healthy functioning as they promote interpersonal responsibility and inhibit harmful acts. Compromised empathy and compassion are dysfunctional for a social species such as humans.

Killing animals in the form of live baiting to train greyhounds (as 90% of trainers do) to run faster or killing the greyhounds themselves (17,000 per year) because they don’t run fast enough is no less than a demonstration of compromised empathy.

There is now a large body of evidence showing an association between cruelty toward animals and antisocial behaviour including violence and aggression toward other humans. It is accepted by professionals and scientists alike that mistreating animals is not an isolated behaviour but part of a constellation of antisocial behaviours. The strong co-occurrence between animal cruelty and human aggression has been referred to as “the link” (http://nationallinkcoalition.org/). Indeed even Australian government bodies have acknowledged the link (http://www.depi.vic.gov.au/pets/care-and-welfare/animals-and-people/the-link-between-animal-abuse-and-human-violence).

We know that environments that support aggression will have a larger number of aggressive people who will pass on that behaviour to the next generation through their actions and attitudes. Legalizing cruelty in the form of greyhound racing is only further exacerbating aggression and violence in communities and families. People who practice or who approve of live baiting undoubtedly convey to those around them and to their children, attitudes of the treatment of animals that are not consistent with mainstream Australian values.

If governments are serious about curbing societal problems related to aggression such as family violence, child abuse, and indeed all aggressive and violent behaviour, they will ban industries such as greyhound racing. Many, many events and an enormous amount of data gathered since the February expose of live baiting have confirmed that the greyhound racing industry in Australasia is endemically characterized by corrupt and illegal behaviours including doping of dogs with illegal substances and most particularly of live baiting.

Greyhound racing participants, and greyhound racing industry officials, have shown clearly and repeatedly that they have no care or concern about being involved in an industry responsible for killing thousands of young and healthy dogs every year. They also have no concern about being responsible for the most extreme form of animal torture possible (in the form of live baiting) for thousands upon thousands of small and vulnerable animals. And they clearly have no concern about repeatedly breaking the law. These are not the sorts of people Australians want to have their tax money spent on. They are also not the sorts of people whose livelihood we, as a society, should allow.

Governments have a social and moral responsibility to do all in their power to minimize crime, aggression and cruelty. By not banning greyhound racing, governments are enabling extreme animal cruelty to continue. They are also exacerbating societal levels of aggression, and are enabling pathways that teach children (most likely those already at risk since their parents are already modelling cruel behaviour) to be aggressive.

No amount of revenue earned by governments from greyhound racing is worth the aggression and criminality it supports. If governments continue to enable this criminal activity, they are no less than conspirators to the crime. There is now too much supporting evidence to hold any other opinion.

Gullone, E. (2012). Animal cruelty, Antisocial Behaviour and Aggression: More than a link. Palgrave Macmillan Ltd., Hampshire.

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