Wednesday, October 25, 2017

A Matter of Differing Perspective

A caged racing greyhound in New South Wales, Australia

By Fred Barton, GREY2K USA Worldwide Board Member

In 2015, when the Australian television show Four Corners—the equivalent of 60 Minutes—broke the live baiting scandal it looked like it was a devastating, perhaps fatal blow to the greyhound racing industry. Even though the practice of using live possums, piglets and rabbits to train greyhounds was already illegal, the investigative report found numerous examples of it in Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria. 

The public outcry was immediate and intense leading to the banishment or suspension of numerous trainers and other officials as well as an outright ban on racing in New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory (the ban was later rescinded in New South Wales). The scandal also resulted in increased public scrutiny of the industry as well as a raft of new regulations and increased enforcement of existing ones.

New people were brought in to oversee racing, and there has been movement in a positive direction on some fronts. For example, according to the latest Greyhound Racing Victoria Annual Report, adoptions in that state have increased by 57%, kennel inspections have jumped a whopping 191% and breeding is down 35%. Yet even after the scandal illegal doping, illegal export and euthanasia  of helpless greyhounds continues. 

One of the best examples of the industry’s reluctance to thoroughly clean itself up and resistance to those who try is an exchange among  racing insiders in a chat room concerning a questionnaire sent out by the Greyhound Racing Board in New South Wales, a state which, as I said, came very close to ending racing permanently. 

A user named Nicholas Arena wrote that “Survey after survey - there is nothing that has not already been stated on numerous occasions over the past 2 years.”  And then, the really telling comment: “The solutions are obvious - stop pretending a greyhound's welfare is above that of a participant…” It’s a remark that needs no explanation and puts the lie to industry protestations that the care deeply for their dogs and those who abuse them are merely a few bad apples.

Paul Wheeler, who is one of the top trainers in the country agreed, writing, “I am not filling any more surveys to be ignored, it’s waste of time. Nick Arena summed it up perfectly.” It’s becoming clear that the industry simply doesn’t see what’s wrong with the continued exploitation, abuse, injury and deaths of the greyhounds in their care. In their eyes it’s simply a cost of doing business.

Another user, Simon Moore, echoes this sentiment when he posts that, “i've (sic) never heard of such a campaign to crush a group of people who have done nothing wrong.” There can be no clearer example of how blind those in greyhound racing are to the atrocities that occur right before them than Mr. Moore’s comment. Is it any wonder that they resist and resent increased oversight and enforcement of greyhound welfare regulations? 

The short answer to that question is no, it is not. When you believe that exploitation for profit is really doing nothing wrong, despite the collateral pain, suffering and death you cause those you exploit, no real attempt at regulation will come from inside, and those who attempt to impose oversight from the outside will be ignored. It’s like the evangelical and the atheist arguing about the Bible. Since the former believes it is the unaltered word of God and the latter believes it is a historical document fraught with human frailties, the argument is going nowhere since each participant approaches it with an entirely different perspective.

And so it is with greyhound racing. Those who are shocked and appalled by the inhumanity of it, the casual callousness, barbarity and cruelty of it, will try to communicate their horror to those who see only profit and loss. And they will fail to have an effect because, as Mr. Arena so truthfully put it, participants’ welfare will always come before greyhounds. The only regulation that will work is putting an end to racing.

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