Dear Premier Andrews and Minister Pakula,
I am writing in response to last week’s release of Greyhound Racing Victoria’s Annual Report for 2015-2016.
Number of starters needed:
On the basis of “wastage”, the McHugh report into greyhound racing in NSW recommended a shutdown of the industry. The calculation took into account the number of dogs needed to be whelped to meet the required numbers of starters necessary for contracted races. Given this calculation, according to the NSW McHugh report, the task of addressing the issue of “wastage” in the industry is “insuperable”.
The table below quotes statistics obtained from the Greyhounds Australasia website. It shows that the number of starters was actually greater in 2015 in Victoria compared to NSW and therefore, the number of dogs bred in Victoria for the industry to remain viable, needs to be higher than the number required in the NSW industry – a number deemed so high that it resulted in the industry being concluded to have lost its social license.
Victoria versus NSW
Item NSW Vic.
Number of meetings 1,253 1,089
Number of races held 12,422 13,494
Number of starters 94,222 100,241
Greyhounds named: 5,645 3,691
Litters registered: 1,232 1,029
GRV’s Annual Report 2015-2016
According to the report:
“In 2015-16, 3012 greyhounds registered in Victoria were euthanased in the State and interstate according to euthanasia certificates supplied by veterinarians. Reasons provided included injury, illness, aggressive behaviour, owners unable to find homes and end-of-career decisions by owners.” (p. 12)
Despite claims of increased transparency, there are several significant problems with this statistic.
First, the figure 3,012 is only those dogs who were killed by vets. A total of 4,068 pups were whelped and registered. How many were whelped but not registered?
It is likely that more pups than 4,068 (number unknown) were whelped and it is without doubt that more than 3,012 dogs were killed since this number represents only those killed by a vet.
In his 2015 Own Motion Inquiry into Live Baiting in GRV, integrity commissioner
Sal Perna reported that only about 53% to 59% of greyhounds in Victoria are ultimately named.
Therefore, GRV “wastage” rates are greater than the annual report states. The increased transparency being claimed by GRV is questionable and merely serves to disguise the true and greater wastage figures. Perna concluded that an estimated 4,000 greyhounds in Victoria are killed before their fifth birthday.
Perna further stated that:
“The culling of Greyhounds is clearly a concern and warrants a thorough review in order to create a regulatory framework that overseas the entire lifecycle of a Greyhound and ensures the welfare of all Greyhounds bred.”
Increasing Adoption Numbers
The unrealistic proposal has been put forth in the Annual report that “GRV will progressively move towards re-homing all greyhounds bred in Victoria (subject to medical, behavioural and legal requirements) by 2018-19.”
At this point in time, of the 4,068 dogs whelped (that are known about), 3,012 dogs were killed (that are known about). That is a kill rate of 74%. The proposal therefore is a change in adoption rates from, at best, an adoption rate of 26% to 100%. Even the RSPCA has questioned the soundness of such a claim.
Injuries and Racing Deaths
The report also fails to be transparent in its reporting of track injuries and deaths. It does not give numbers of injuries – only injuries per 1,000 starts. This number is deceptive in that it suggests relatively low injury and death rates. A more detailed analysis indicates alarmingly high rates.
In the report (page 17), injuries are classified as minor and catastrophic. Minor injuries, where the track veterinarian orders a short rehabilitation time (stand-down period) of between 0 to 10 days before the dog raced again, are reported to have occurred at a rate of 29.8 per 1,000 starts. Injuries classified as medium level where there is a stand-down period of 11 to 21 days are reported as having an incidence rate of 8.3 per 1,000 starts. This category includes bones breaking and serious damage to ligaments and tendons.
The most serious category of injuries is classified as catastrophic and includes incidents when a dogs dies on the track or is killed immediately after the accident. Such injuries are reported as occurring at a rate of 1 per 1,000 starts.
Actual numbers can be estimated by considering that there is an average of 8 dogs in any one race and 12 races per meeting, resulting in a total of 96 starts per meeting. The number of race meetings in Victoria during the period covered in the annual report is reported to be 1,128.
A simplified and conservative analysis therefore is to calculate injuries per 100,000 starts (96 starts per meeting X 1,128 meetings = 108,288) which results in 2,980 minor injuries,
830 medium injuries, 360 major injuries, and 100 catastrophic injuries during the 2015-2016 year. These statistics indicate that one out of every 8 dogs suffered a major or catastrophic injury.
What is important to note is that although dogs who suffer from major injuries are often listed as “retired”, in most instances these dogs never race again and in all likelihood they too have been killed along with those who suffer catastrophic injuries.
The injury and death statistics are alarmingly high, so high that in themselves they represent reason to shut down the industry, quite apart from doping, wastage, and live baiting issues.
Society and Greyhound Racing
There are no benefits provided by this industry that also adversely affects the least privileged people in society. As has been forecast, over the next five years consolidations will occur through closure of the smaller industry players, leaving only the larger and wealthier players in the industry, an industry that has been evaluated as being in the declining stage of its economic life cycle [1, 2].
The argument therefore that greyhound racing is the sport of Aussie battlers is therefore a myth. In fact, the greyhound racing industry represents merely another gambling avenue that simply functions to transfer wealth from the poor to the rich [3, 4]. This is most clearly highlighted by the recent purchase of Punters.com by News Corporation Ltd.
By supporting greyhound racing, in contrast to supporting the Aussie battler as is Labor’s argument, in fact, it is causing to keep Aussies battling.
On the basis of the available evidence, it is clear that the greyhound racing industry is based on the breeding and killing of thousands of young and healthy dogs every year. An industry that treats living beings as gambling commodities and places their lives at high risk in every single race is not acceptable in any civilized society. Despite GRV’s best efforts, as was the conclusion in the NSW Commission of Inquiry report into greyhound racing, it is extremely unlikely that the industry will be able to achieve a 0% “wastage” rate as is being proposed. It is also extremely unlikely that racetracks will ever be able to be made sufficiently safe to dramatically reduce injury rates.
Meanwhile, the trialing of reviews and revisions to the industry that are deemed to fail will kill more dogs either through injury on the track, a needle by a vet or by unspeakably cruel other means.
As is now clear from the reviews that have been conducted since the 2015 live baiting scandal, the greyhound racing industry depends for its success on the use and abuse of thousands upon thousands of dogs. Public knowledge about this cruel industry has increased and along with this, the majority public opinion is that the industry needs to be shutdown.
I urge you to please follow in the footsteps of the many other nations that have banned greyhound racing, take the moral and ethical decision, consider the opinion of the majority of people who have voted your government into power, and shut it down.
- Horse and Dog Racing in Australia Report (2015) http://clients1.ibisworld.com.au/reports/au/industry/default.aspx?entid=657
- 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 (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