Contributed by Jeff White
Throughout the country, the racing industry has shown itself resistant to reform, and the state governments that sanction their cruel enterprise have been shown to lack the moral and political will to do what is right for the dogs. This is unacceptable to the majority of Australians. The long and continuous parade of scandals and outrages has awakened their consciousness of the routine and casual barbarity that pervades greyhound racing, and they are sickened by it. They are rapidly coming to realize that the only solution is to shut down the greyhound racing industry, nationwide.
Despite successive public investigations, industry internal reviews, and parliamentary inquiries – all recognizing (though in many cases grudgingly) the problems of overbreeding, wastage, drugging, racing injuries, and mass dog burial grounds – industry and state governments continue to place the highly exaggerated economic benefits of dog racing ahead of the welfare of the dogs.
Governments persist in finding ways to spend money to subsidize the continued existence of the industry and provide it with a cloak of official respectability. Public funding continues unabated for “independent” regulators, watchdogs, investigators, inquiry hearings and reports, industry-controlled adoption programs, and racetrack infrastructure.
Meanwhile, greyhound adoption groups continue their valiant struggle to rescue and rehome the growing numbers of cast-off greyhounds that the industry no longer needs or wants. This volunteer, privately-funded movement represent a huge social and economic cost in time, labour, and money that goes unrecognized in all the official assessments of the racing industry’s “contribution” to society. Also unrecognized is the impact on other breeds of dogs; every greyhound that finds a loving home reduces the opportunities available for other unwanted dogs to be rescued from crowded pounds and avoid lethal injection.
Although there is talk of limiting breeding numbers, no hard caps have been placed on the number of dogs whelped in order to satisfy the industry’s endless need for young pups to be raced. And without federal laws or regulations limiting interstate transportation and sale of racing greyhounds, state governments are constitutionally powerless to do so even if they had the will. Controlling the numbers of racing dogs is a fantasy, at least for the foreseeable future. Already there is evidence of “dumping” of excess greyhounds into Tasmania from Victoria; examples like this may be expected to grow as long as overbreeding remains unchecked .
It is now uncommon for a day to pass in Australia without at least one owner or trainer being caught presenting a dog for racing that tests positive for excessive levels of prohibited substances. These include cocaine, caffeine, barbiturates, arsenic, amphetamines, cobalt chloride and EPO. Routinely, the racing stewards allow the offenders (often highly regarded, successful, and prominent members of the racing establishment) to remain in the industry after paying a small fine or serving a suspension of a few weeks. Government and industry vows of “crackdowns” and “zero tolerance” are a sham.
Dangerous racetracks continue to exact a cruel toll on the lives and limbs of greyhounds. The recent small moves toward public disclosure of death and injury statistics appear to have stalled, probably as a defensive response to public disgust and outrage at the levels of carnage they reveal. Even new, state-of-the-art tracks like Cannington in Western Australia continue to kill and maim the dogs .
Public revulsion and outrage have driven live baiting underground, where it undoubtedly continues in barns, sheds and other enclosed spaces as an essentially undetectable practice, except for the occasional whistleblower. But decades of history have shown that widespread cruelty and cheating can go unreported for many years, as industry participants close ranks to protect each other from exposure and accountability.
It rather consists mainly in the forced and prolonged confinement in kennels, the lack of socialisation of young pups, the failure to obtain proper veterinary treatment (relying instead on unnecessarily painful and unscientific treatments by so-called “muscle men” and other unqualified practitioners), forced exercise on treadmills and in sink-or-swim water tanks, the strategic withholding of food and water, the use of restrictive and dangerous muzzles as a response to stress-induced barking, and the lack of attention to dental health and other conditions like pannus and dermatitis that aren’t considered to affect the ability of a dog to run fast.
All of these practices are routine, not exceptional, and are characteristic of dogs’ living conditions in the industry as a whole. The talk about a few “bad apples” or the 98% of trainers who “love their dogs” rings hollow against the reality of daily life for the vast majority of Australian racing greyhounds.
The business model of greyhound racing is obsolete. It remains unchanged from the early days of the 20th century. Dogs are used essentially as random-number generators for the gambling industry – a non-productive economic activity that simply moves money around from one person’s pocket into another’s, without actually increasing the wealth or well-being of society in general. With the advent and widespread availability of electronic and other forms of gambling, the use of animals as objects of wagering has become unnecessary.
This has been recognised worldwide in the steady decline of support for dog and horse racing. Maintaining greyhound racing today makes as much sense as continuing to manufacture 8-track audio tapes.
You’ve signed the petitions, written the letters, and posted the comments on social media. Now it’s time to step up and be counted together, as a united force across the country. You are the only hope for tens of thousands of greyhounds.