Government support for greyhound racing is self-serving and justified through the deception that it provides economic benefits.

greyhound racing photo 1

 

An evidence-based industry ban followed by a politically motivated reversal. 

In June 2016, following a year long, comprehensive NSW Commission of Inquiry into the New South Wales (NSW) greyhound racing industry costing hundreds of thousands of tax payer dollars, 80 recommendations were made. The top recommendation was to shut down industry [1]. Based on the substantial evidence documented in the inquiry, then premier Mike Baird enforced the recommendation to shut the industry down. In addition to declining profitability, racetracks in states of disrepair and criminal conduct of participants, a major reason for the recommendation was the unsustainable nature of an industry based on the breeding and killing thousands of young and healthy dogs [2,3,4].

In its own info graphic, the NSW government cited 5 facts: 1. On average 4,074 greyhounds are slaughtered in NSW each year; 2. Every year 50% to 70% of racing dogs are deemed “wastage”; 3. One of every 5 racing dogs suffer an injury while racing; 4. 136 greyhounds die racing per year; 5. The average lifespan of a racing dog is 1.5 years compared to 9 years for a non-racing dog [3].

Baird gave a lengthy account of his reasons for the decision made included the following: If one looks at the industry overall, one sees that it is declining. The number of participants is declining—indeed, over the past few years it is down about 20 per cent. Attendance at tracks is down 26 per cent. The industry’s own analysis shows that it is not sustainable into the long term from an economic point of view. It is shrinking; it is declining. We are seeing the issue of wastage—that is, slaughtering innocent, healthy greyhounds. The estimate is between 48,000 and 68,000—that is 60,000 greyhounds that have been euthanised on the back of this.” [4, 16]

 

A culture of cruelty and criminality

The increased scrutiny of the industry consequent to the February, 2015 live baiting exposure on the ABC Four Corners program significantly increased public awareness of its culture of cruelty. Dogs are bred in the thousands and large numbers who do not qualify for the racetrack face a death sentence, despite being young and healthy. Dogs who do qualify for racing risk injury and death on the track. Hundreds of dogs die every year from racetrack injuries, some as major as broken necks and spines and others as minor as broken toes. And even the dogs who survive their average two years of racing face death when they are no profitable to race. Overall, Australia-wide, 17,000 healthy young dogs are killed annually according to the industry’s own statistics [5]. Only a lucky few are adopted into homes and so get the chance at a life that recognises them as dogs and not racing machines.

Greyhound racing faces significant challenges to welfare and social license Australia wide.

In Victoria, in his 2015 final report, chief Veterinary Officer Dr Charles Milne stated that animal welfare can only be assured if there is a “paradigm shift to ensure animal welfare is at the forefront of the greyhound industry.” [6; Foreword]

Victoria’s Racing Integrity Commissioner, Sal Perna in his 2015 Own Motion into Live Baiting report cited RSPCA statistics showing that “only about 53 percent to 59 percent of Greyhounds born in Victoria are ultimately ‘named’ (p. 90). The remainder are killed with a small minority being adopted. On the basis of RSPCA statistics, Perna concluded that “as many as 4000 greyhounds are killed before their fifth birthday” – in Victoria alone [7; p. 90].

Yet another report in Victoria, the Bittar review, stated that “In many ways, the biggest challenge for GRV, and greyhound racing generally, is the attitude of some of its participants. Based on my discussions and observations, there is a segment of greyhound stakeholders who are much less concerned about the public perception of welfare issues” [8; p. 33].

 

The racing industry is economically dying

Despite public acceptability of the industry declining following exposure of its animal cruelty and criminal activities [9], governments are refusing to shut it down claiming it makes an important economic contribution. However, this reasoning is without valid foundation. The ban reversal in NSW was revealed to be politically driven. Following the NSW ban announcement and given sustained propaganda from News Corporation outlets, polls showed that people in rural regions of NSW were swaying toward giving their vote to the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers party instead of the National party. Soon after, the government buckled and reversed the ban [10].

When considering objective indices of the economic contribution provided by the racing industry as are reported in IBISWorld annual reports, statistics at least over the past several years, have shown an economic decline in the dog and horse racing industry. Of note, IBISWorld is a company that provides independent and up to date research for over 500 industries including Australia’s top 2000 companies.

In its 2017 report, IBISWorld described the industry as being in the declining stage of its economic lifecycle [11]. The same conclusion was drawn in the 2015 IBISWorld report which documented a consistent decline in revenue (e.g., a decline of 23.2% in 2007-2008 from the previous year) [12]. The report predicted that industry revenue and employment are set to fall within the industry.

The economic problems facing the industry have been highlighted throughout the country. For example, in June, 2015, Racing Queensland faced an $11 million loss and a forecasted a $21 million loss in the 2015/2016 financial year [13]. In NSW, a 2014 industry report concluded “…with its current structure and sources of revenue the greyhound racing industry in New South Wales may be unsustainable [14; p. ix]”. In Western Australia too, greyhound racing was reported to be struggling financially [15]. Most recently, it was announced that the Cairns Greyhound Racing club will be closed down from 31st December, 2018 given the region’s low greyhound population [36].

Economic failings are further indicated by the substantial financial support provided by governments to keep the industry viable. This can most strongly be seen in the three biggest industries in Australia – Victoria, NSW, and Queensland.

In NSW, since the reversal of the ban, among other financial contributions, the NSW government has provided a $500,000 sum to the million dollar race [17] and $700,000 to help ACT greyhound trainers continue the cruelty across the border after the ACT ban [18]. As noted above, among his reasons for announcing a shutdown of the industry in NSW, Baird noted that several racetracks were in various states of disrepair. Since the ban reversal, hundreds of thousands of dollars have been spent on track upgrades such as the $480,000 spent on the Gunnedah track upgrades [19], and the $762,000 upgrade of the Gosford track [20]. Most recently, a $4,000 handout to Bathurst greyhounds, the seat of racing minister Paul Toole, was announced [21].

A similar situation exists in Victoria. One needs only to go to the Press Release section of the Victorian government’s website to see government announcements of tax payer handouts to the racing industry. This includes a $4 million spend on greyhound racing announced just prior to the November, 2018 state election [22]. In an October, 2018 media release, a 40 million boost for racing was announced [23]. Additional money has been used for unsavoury promotions such greyhound racing “family fun” days, “Easter holiday fun” [24] including free giveaways to attract children, a “family food festival” [25] and “Celebrating Seniors at Tabcorp” [26].

In Queensland, the government announced a $12 million prize money boost in January this year [27]. This, in a state where only 2.5 years earlier, the industry recorded multi-million dollar losses [13].

To support their argument that racing creates jobs and provides economic benefits use statistics provided by government and industry commissioned reports – Size and Scope reports. These reports have questionable validity.

As an example, the most recent 2015-2016 Size and Scope report of the Victorian Greyhound Racing Industry [28] stated that it was responsible for generating more than $408.6 million dollars in value added contribution to the Victorian economy. Value added amounts include expenditure associated with greyhound racing such as, for example, transportation, dog food, kennel fencing and veterinary care. Importantly, it is acknowledged in the report itself that the contribution “cannot be interpreted as saying that Gross State Product or employment would fall by this amount if the industry somehow did not exist. In the first instance, local people would spend their money on other activities and the contribution of those sectors would rise and replace most or all of that which was previously generated by the racing industry.” (p. 56)

It is also noteworthy that Size and Scope reports are based on unaudited figures. Given the lack of transparency and low confidence in the validity of industry provided data, this is clearly problematic. Indeed, the report itself states that it has been prepared to meet the requirements set out by Greyhound Racing Victoria within their terms of reference and according to industry determined criteria.

 

The Australian public want the industry banned

The increased scrutiny on the greyhound racing industry over the past several years has resulted in a better informed public relating to what greyhound racing involves. Currently, the Australian public overwhelming wants to see an end to greyhound racing [29]. And the public overwhelmingly opposes tax payer funded support of racing. This was recently highlighted in relation to the NSW million dollar race. A Channel 7 poll following the NSW government’s announcement of the $500,000 public money giveaway to the million dollar race, received more than 40,000 votes with 95% answering NO to the question “The NSW government today donated $500,000 to the richest dog race in the world. Is this a good use of taxpayer’s money?” [30]

 

The racing industry is the most harmful gambling industry of all

Not only has greyhound racing lost any social license it may have had, and not only is it (along with horse racing) failing economically, it is a gambling industry. Gambling in Australia is big business that predominantly benefits the big end of town. In their 2014 piece, Markham and Young stated “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.” [31].

Markham and Young argue that a viable gambling industry without the extensive exploitation of the Australian working class is unimaginable since gambling problems are concentrated amongst the poorest social groups in Australia, and gambling revenue largely depends on problem gamblers.

In line with reports regarding the economics of dog and horse racing, and on gambling industries more broadly, statistics reveal that these industries do not create new jobs. Instead, they divert employment from other sectors. They don’t create new wealth either. Rather, they transfer wealth from poor to rich. Moreover, gambling reduces economic activity rather than increasing it by diverting gamblers away from productive labor.

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 people who are seriously affected. This includes families, friends and employers. Even more concerning, 60% of problem gamblers who have sought counselling have spoken of suicide. As many as 400 suicides each year can be attributed to addictive gambling [32].

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, which were predominantly concentrated in the poorest sectors of society [33]. It is clear that the impact of problem gambling in Australia is huge and it is not confined to poker machines [32].

Why then are governments refusing to address this significant social problem?

It is particularly poignant that the problems associated with gambling are concentrated in the racing sector.  This was recently highlighted by the key findings of an Australian government report [34].

According to the report:

  • In 2015, nearly one million Australians regularly gambled on horse and dog racing.
  • Forty-one per cent (41%) of all regular race bettors (403,000 adults) experienced one or more gambling-related problems
  • In a typical month, 41 cents in every dollar spent on race betting by regular race bettors came from a person with moderate to severe gambling problems.
  • Around 22% of regular race bettors (214,000 adults) had moderate to severe gambling problems
  • In a typical month, well over half of all race betting expenditure by regular gamblers (60 cents in every dollar) was accounted for by those who experienced any sort of gambling problem
  • Well over a third of all households containing a race bettor with severe gambling problems had to ask family and friends for financial help (39%), while close to a third could not pay the electricity, gas or telephone bills on time (30%). More than a quarter could not pay the rent or mortgage on time (27%).

It was concluded in the report that nearly one million Australian adults gambled regularly on the races. These adults were twice as likely to experience gambling-related problems as the regular Australian gambler.

 

Self-serving government decisions disregard public opinion,  empirical evidence and ignore significant harm and suffering.

The above analysis worryingly highlights that political decisions made by Australian governments with regard to racing and indeed the gambling industries are self-serving. These decisions not only disregard public opinion and empirical evidence, they disregard enormous suffering relating to racing gambling – both human and animal.

Self-serving decisions that are blind to rational and empirical decision making are easier for governments to achieve when the victims of those decisions are voiceless and powerless as is the case in the dog and horse racing industries. It is also true with regard to those in the community who generally have less influence, such as the poorer sectors of society. These are the victims of the racing industries. Their suffering poses little threat to governments, and so governments continue to exploit it. A way to force responsible and compassionate decisions by governments is to give the voiceless a voice.

Given current societal attitudes toward the racing gambling sector, were a plebiscite held today asking whether the public want the animal racing industry to be banned, it is highly probable that it would receive majority support as was recently seen in Florida where people were asked whether or not they supported a ban to greyhound racing (35). Requiring a 60% yes vote to pass, Amendment 13 was overwhelmingly supported with a 69% yes vote. The Florida outcome gives us hope that greyhound racing in Australia will be banned in perhaps a shorter time frame than we might imagine. As more minor political party representatives and Independents are elected into Australian parliaments who are prepared represent the vulnerable (e.g. The Animal Justice Party, The Greens, Derryn Hinch’s Justice Party), we are closer than ever before to a ban of this cruel racing industry [37].

 

Sources

  1. 2016 NSW Commission of Inquiry into Greyhound Racing. https://www.greyhoundracinginquiry.justice.nsw.gov.au/ (July, 2016).
    See also: https://coalitionprotectgreyhounds.wordpress.com/2018/12/15/2016-nsw-commission-of-inquiry-report-documents/
  2. Greyhound racing to be banned in New South Wales, Baird Government announces. (July, 2016). https://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-07-07/greyhound-racing-to-be-banned-in-new-south-wales/7576816
  3. NSW Government Greyhound Racing Industry facts Infographic (July, 2016). https://coalitionprotectgreyhounds.wordpress.com/2018/08/18/nsw-industry-facts-infographic/
  4. Mike Baird announces a ban on dog racing in New South Wales Australia (July, 2016). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wDj0RJdMAwQ
  5. Greyhound industry kills up to 17,000 young dogs, warned about being shut down, inquiry hears (September, 2015). https://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-09-28/nsw-greyhound-racing-industry-in-crisis-inquiry-hears/6809724
  6. Investigation into animal welfare and cruelty in the Victorian greyhound industry. (April, 2015). https://www.parliament.vic.gov.au/file_uploads/Greyhound_report_12May2015_updates_9June2015_Internal_print_wB92ngLT.pdf
  7. 2015 Own Motion Inquiry into live baiting in Greyhound Racing in Victoria. Final Report. (June, 2015). https://www.racingintegrity.vic.gov.au/sites/default/files/embridge_cache/emshare/original/public/2016/10/f0/cdf738996/2015%20Own%20Motion%20into%20Live%20Baiting%20in%20Greyhound%20Racing%20in%20Vic.pdf
  8. Bittar Review of the Integrity Structures of the Victorian Racing Industry. (April, 2016). https://www.justice.vic.gov.au/justice-system/laws-and-regulation/bittar-review-of-the-integrity-structures-of-the-victorian
  9. Greyhound racing heavyweights John and Wayne Vanderburg admit possessions of weapons, steroids. Sydney Morning Herald (November, 2017). https://www.smh.com.au/national/nsw/greyhound-racing-heavyweights-john-and-wayne-vanderburg-admit-possession-of-weapons-steroids-20171107-gzglj8.html
  10. Orange byelection shock as NSW Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party ‘trumps’ Nationals. (November, 2016). https://www.smh.com.au/national/nsw/orange-byelection-shock-as-nsw-shooters-fisher-and-farmers-party-trumps-nationals-20161112-gsnzlk.html
  11. Horse and Dog Racing in Australia (November, 2017). Gone to the dogs: Weak demand conditions are forcing smaller operators out of the industry. IBISWorld Industry Report R9120.
  12. Horse and Dog Racing in Australia (November, 2015). Hold your horses: Industry revenue has been declining due to flat attendance numbers. IBISWorld Industry Report R9120.
  13. Shocking debt’ deepens Racing Qld crisis (June, 2015). http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/latest-news/shocking-debt-deepens-racing-qldcrisis/news-story/c2c594f3b7756f3581bec1e7f53babac
  14. Greyhound racing in NSW: First Report (March, 2014). http://www.greyhoundracinginquiry.justice.nsw.gov.au/Documents/Select_Committee_on_GR_in_NSW_First_Report_28_March_2014.pdf
  15. Greyhound racing set for big overhaul (April, 2015). https://au.news.yahoo.com/thewest/sport/a/27115884/greyhound-racing-set-for-bigoverhaul
  16. Mike Baird Facebook page (July, 2016). https://www.facebook.com/mikebairdMP/posts/1136598769801696?__tn__=K-R
  17. Huge boost for NSW greyhound industry with first million-dollar race. (July, 2018). https://www.smh.com.au/sport/racing/huge-boost-for-nsw-greyhound-industry-with-first-million-dollar-race-20180731-p4zujc.html
  18. NSW gives $700,000 to greyhound industry, two years after aborted ban (August, 2018). https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2018/aug/24/nsw-gives-700000-to-greyhound-industry-two-years-after-aborted-ban
  19. $480,000 upgrade for Gunnedah greyhound racetrack (July, 2018). https://www.industry.nsw.gov.au/media/releases/2018/$480,000-upgrade-for-gunnedah-greyhound-racetrack
  20. Greyhound racing returns to Gosford (November, 2018). https://www.industry.nsw.gov.au/media/releases/2018/greyhound-racing-returns-to-gosford
  21. Bathurst greyhounds gets a hand to host new race meeting (December, 2018). https://www.westernadvocate.com.au/story/5800777/bathurst-greyhounds-gets-a-hand-to-host-new-race-meeting/?fbclid=IwAR3A5e6BF6vJ1I4KPBHVwN0lHrjkqspCBGmdTN3O-wQFloHulMrGcSduBPk
  22. Boosting jobs and investment in greyhound racing (October, 2018). https://www.premier.vic.gov.au/boosting-jobs-and-investment-in-greyhound-racing/
  23. $40m boost pledged for Victorian racing (October, 2018). https://www.racing.com/news/2018-10-11/news-40m-boost-pledged-for-victorian-racing
  24. Easter holiday fun. (April, 2017). http://www.martinpakula.com.au/media-releases/turbo-charged-easter-school-holidays/
  25. Family food festival for the 2018 Victoria cup (October, 2018). http://www.martinpakula.com.au/media-releases/family-food-festival-for-the-2018-victoria-cup/
  26. Celebrating seniors at Tabcorp Park (October, 2018). http://www.martinpakula.com.au/media-releases/celebrating-seniors-at-tabcorp-park/
  27. Prizemoney boost for Queensland racing. (January, 2018). https://www.news.com.au/sport/superracing/prizemoney-boost-for-queensland-racing/news-story/4e209c38565f074b7a0114b4841b4a5f
  28. Size and Scope of the Victorian Greyhound Racing Industry (2017). http://www.grv.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/GRV_VGRI.pdf
  29. Greyhound racing: 82 per cent want Australia-wise industry shutdown, poll finds (July, 2016). https://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-07-15/82-per-cent-want-australia-wide-ban-on-greyhound-racing-poll/7633998
  30. 7 News Sydney Million dollar race poll (July, 2018). https://www.facebook.com/7newssydney/posts/2244017602289027
  31. Markham, F., & Young, M. (March, 2014). Who winds from ‘Big Gambling’ in Australia? The Conversation. https://theconversation.com/who-wins-from-big-gambling-inaustralia-22930
  32. Response to The Productivity Commission’s Draft Report into Gambling for Clubs NSW (December, 2009). https://www.pc.gov.au/inquiries/completed/gambling-2010/submissions/subdr359-attachment.pdf
  33. Gambling pays off…for Australian governments. (July, 2015). https://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-07-17/steketee-gambling-pays-off-for-australian-governments/6625170
  34. Armstrong, A., & Carroll, M. (November, 2017). Race betting in Australia – Research Summary. Australian Government, Australian Institute of Family Studies; Australian Gambling Research Centre. https://aifs.gov.au/agrc/publications/race-betting-australia
  35. Florida voters put dog racing in America on its last legs. (November, 2018). https://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/community/miami-dade/article221293595.html
  36. Cairns Greyhounds Killed off by Racing Queensland (December, 2018). https://australianracinggreyhound.com/news/qld/cairns-greyhounds-killed-off-by-racing-queensland/95240
  37. Victorian election: Labor faces cluster of micro-party crossbenchers in upper house. (December, 2018). https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2018/dec/11/victorian-election-labor-faces-upper-house-crossbench-of-micro-parties

 

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