The year 2015 was truly historical for greyhound racing industries. Australians, and indeed people worldwide became more “educated” about this so called “sport”.
The Cruel Culture of Greyhound Racing
What became clearer than ever before was that the “culture” of greyhound racing is completely at odds with the values of most Australians and indeed most civilized people around the world. People in the greyhound racing industry, ranging from the dog owners and trainers, all the way to the CEO’s at the top, have been shown to have no hesitations about hiding 15 the insidious animal cruelty (live baiting) that as many as 90% of trainers use. They believe it is necessary for training the dogs to chase. 1
The cruelty to small animals is accepted by industry participants as necessary as is the excessive breeding of dogs, to the tune of 20,000 per year to find the 3,000 dogs who can run fast enough to be kept alive. 2 The remainder are considered “wastage”. There are other cruelties including the high incidence of fatal injuries endured by the dogs who qualify for racing, to the tune of 4 or 5 per week, the doping of dogs with illegal substances with extremely high frequency, the racing of dogs in unacceptably high temperatures (38C is accepted as the cut-off temperature by Greyhound Racing Victoria) 3, and the live export of greyhounds to countries with absent animal welfare regulations and to a certain cruel death. 4
The Link between Deliberate Animal Cruelty and Antisocial Behaviour
There has been much written about the concern that these deliberate acts of animal cruelty represent to the wellbeing of society 5, by way of the empirically demonstrated and much written about “link” between cruelty to animals and aggression, violence and general antisocial behavior toward humans as well.6 Ironically, this large body of evidence has been acknowledged by governments. 7 Yet they still have not acted to end these concerning behaviors, but rather continue to endorse them.
In sum, there is clear evidence now of an ingrained culture that condones illegal cruelty to small animals for the purposes of live baiting and the many forms of cruelty, many legal, to the dogs themselves from birth to death, in the greyhound racing industry. What has not been given much attention is the negative impact of this “sport” on society quite apart from the aggression and cruelty that it legitimizes. It is a form of gambling which in itself represents a host of social issues.
Whilst Electronic Gaming Machines constitute the most prevalent form of gambling in Australia, racing is the second largest form of gambling. Gambling in Australia is big business that predominantly benefits the big end of town. In their 2014 piece, Markham and Young state “The growth of ‘Big Gambling’ in Australia is an ongoing class project. It is one that has transferred, with industrial efficiency, billions of dollars from the pay packets of the working classes to the bank accounts of a super-rich elite.” 8
They argue that a viable gambling industry without the extensive exploitation of the Australian working class is unimaginable since the data show that gambling problems are concentrated amongst the poorest social groups in Australia, and gambling revenue largely depends on problem gamblers. 8
The data indicate that gambling industries do not create “new jobs”. Rather, they simply divert employment from other sectors and they don’t create new wealth either. Rather, they transfer wealth from poor to rich. Moreover, gambling likely reduces economic activity by diverting gamblers away from productive labor. 8
The impact of problem gambling in Australia is huge and it is not confined to poker machines.9 According to the Productivity Commission, as many as 170,000 Australian adults face significant gambling problems and a further 350,000 are vulnerable. Of concern, for every addicted gambler, there are 10 more people who are seriously affected. This includes families, friends and employers. And if that is not bad enough, according to the Commission, 60% of problem gamblers who have sought counseling, have spoken of suicide. As many as 400 suicides each year can be attributed to addictive gambling. 9
According to Reverend Tim Costello, sports betting and betting online have exploded and are in dire need of regulation. 10
The Victorian Gambling Study
In 2014, a report on the findings of the Victorian Gambling Study was published. 11 This study examined gambling and health longitudinally in Victoria between 2008 and 2012 and represents the largest study of its kind in Australia.
One of its main findings includes that problem gamblers and low- and moderate-risk gamblers have higher gambling participation rates in four key activities: 91% of problem gamblers gamble on Electronic Gaming Machines, 34% bet on races, 25% gamble on table games and 16% bet on sports. Whilst Electronic Gaming Machines are clearly the greatest attraction for problem gamblers, betting on racing (greyhound and horse) is the second largest group of gambling activity with a notable percentage (34%) of problem gamblers participating.
Psychological Distress and Problem Gambling
It is a known fact that the greyhound racing industry destroys thousands upon thousands of animal lives. It is also clear that it significantly contributes to the psychological distress and financial ruin of thousands upon thousands of Australian humans, most of whom are already battling in our society. 8
A 2015 Australian Psychological Society survey into Stress and wellbeing, reported a strong association between gambling and psychological distress including severe anxiety and depression.12 Governments themselves acknowledged this relationship. 13
In a 2015 episode of The Drum TV, it was reported that in Australia, after inflation, total gambling expenditure per head grew from $577 in 1986-87 to $1,179 in 2011-12. This represents total gambling losses of $20.5 billion in 2011-12, and is predominantly concentrated in the poorest sectors of society. 14
It needs to be asked therefore why do governments refuse to reduce the size of this harmful industry? Unfortunately, it seems that governments have become dependent on gambling revenue and have lost sight of the problems endemic to gambling for Australian society.
The evidence points to a desperate need to reduce gambling access and to make it less attractive so that people vulnerable to this societal vice are not so easily seduced. One way to begin is by shutting down what is the most dangerous and disgusting of all of these gambling activities. If governments were to shutdown greyhound racing they would at once demonstrate that they are prepared to at least begin to let go of their addiction to socially harmful gambling revenue. They would also demonstrate that they are able to govern in line with the values of the society which they represent and, most importantly of all they would demonstrate that they actually care about the wellbeing of their constituents, particularly the most vulnerable members of society – human and animal.
- Sydney greyhound trainer believes 90 per cent of trainers use live bait, inquiry hears. ABC News, 29th September, 2015. http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-09-29/sydney-greyhound-trainer-says-live-baiting-rampant-in-industry/6812700
- Greyhound inquiry: Between 13,000 to 17,000 dogs killed very year. Daily Telegraph, 29th September, 2015. http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/news/nsw/greyhound-inquiry-between-13000-17000-dog-killed-every-year/news-story/b53930e8dbc334c1b15d0c3f3d39bdc5
- Greyhound racing & welfare – Hot weather policy & guidelines. Greyhound Racing Victoria. http://www.grv.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/Hot-Weather-Policy-Dec-2015.pdf
- ‘Slow’ Australian greyhounds being exported to Macau, China to go on ‘death row’ ABC news, 9th December, 2015. http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-12-09/greyhounds-exported-to-macau-china-against-industry-rules/7014434
- The Social Dangers of Allowing Greyhound Racing to Continue. Eleonora Gullone wordpress. https://eleonoragullone.wordpress.com/2015/09/30/the-social-dangers-of-allowing-greyhound-racing-to-continue/
- Gullone, E. (2012). Animal cruelty, Antisocial Behaviour and Aggression: More than a link. Palgrave Macmillan Ltd., Hampshire. http://www.palgrave.com/us/book/9780230239234
- The Link between Animal Abuse and Human Violence. Victoria State Government http://www.depi.vic.gov.au/pets/care-and-welfare/animals-and-people/the-link-between-animal-abuse-and-human-violence
- Markham, F., & Young, M. (March, 2014). Who winds from ‘Big Gambling’ in Australia? The Conversation. https://theconversation.com/who-wins-from-big-gambling-in-australia-22930
- Maslen, G. (2012). Waiting for the wins. http://www.aph.gov.au/sitecore/content/Home/About_Parliament/House_of_Representatives/About_the_House_Magazine/Previous/ATH45/waiting
- Horn, J. (2011). Caught in the game. The Monthly: Australian Politics, Society, & Culture. https://www.themonthly.com.au/issue/2011/november/1320384446/jonathan-horn/caught-game
- The Victorian Gambling Study: A longitudinal study of gambling and health in Victoria 2008-2012. http://www.responsiblegambling.vic.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0008/10016/A-LONGITUDINAL-STUDY-OF-GAMBLING-AND-HEALTH-IN-VICTORIA-20082012.pdf
- Australian Psychological Society (2015). Stress and wellbeing: How Australians are coping with life. https://www.psychology.org.au/Assets/Files/2014-APS-NPW-Survey-WEB-reduced.pdf
- Stress and Wellbeing report 2015 https://www.responsiblegambling.vic.gov.au/information-and-resources/whats-new/stress-and-wellbeing-report-2015
- Gambling pays off….for Australian governments. The Drum TV 2015. http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-07-17/steketee-gambling-pays-off-for-australian-governments/6625170
- Greyhound live baiting Internal documents reveal cover ups, tip offs and mismanagement inside NSW racing regulator. ABC News 31st August, 2015, http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-08-31/greyhound-racing-nsw-cover-ups-tip-offs-revealed/6736034