Thursday, June 6, 2019

Baghdad Bob Redux?

By Fred Barton, Secretary, GREY2K USA Worldwide

Throughout the campaign to pass Amendment 13, the humane ballot question that will soon phase out greyhound racing in Florida, I was always amazed at the lengths to which industry mouthpieces would go to avoid addressing the real issue. Was greyhound racing humane? That was the question. But greyhound breeders chose to embark on a crusade of distortion and distraction, talking about hunting, fishing -- anything but dog racing! They focused on attacking the messengers and even bullied voters who were honestly just looking for information. This curious "strategy" was self-defeating and only served to alienate them further with the electorate. As a result, almost seven of ten voters cast their ballots to end greyhound racing by December 2020. Greyhound breeders lost and they lost big time.

You would think that as pro-racers now look back upon their 2018 campaign, they might have gained some self-awareness, taken pause and would now be ready to move in a new direction. You would be wrong.

I recently ran across a  new video called "The Purpose of Life is a Life of Purpose" put out by the National Greyhound Association. It amounts to two minutes of dogs racing in slow motion, with philosophical quotes and New Age music playing in the background. It seems that in the minds of greyhound breeders, commercial racing is literally the purpose of life for greyhounds. But as the people of Florida said loudly and definitively, dog racing is not about life, it is about death. According to state records, a greyhound dies every three days at a Florida track. If you just flew in from Mars and saw this video, you would never know Amendment 13 had passed overwhelmingly in November, that five tracks have shut down early and the seven remaining will soon be closed!

I’ve noticed this denial in other interactions I’ve had with industry representatives as well. During the campaign, one of my tasks was to comment on articles and news reports about Amendment 13. I found myself constantly needing to call out the deceptions, unsupported allegations and outright lies put forth by the pro-racing side. The responses to my clarifications by racing supporters were either personal attacks, attacks on GREY2K, or insults about animal advocates in general. Now, seven months later, as news about Florida greyhounds being released for adoption is coming out and tracks begin moving away from antiquated dog racing, its defenders are still singing the same old song. In their comments online and in print, greyhound breeders continue to make ad hominem attacks. They are even threatening to sue the state in some quixotic waste of time and money because they say "it just isn't fair" to stop dog racing?

As if in a time warp, nothing seems to have changed on the pro-racing side. There is no change in approach, no dawning realization that times have changed. No growth, no nothing.

It seems to me that the industry is totally clueless and completely out of step and this latest video by the NGA only confirms my point. This cruel industry goes on talking about how wonderful racing is and how happy the dogs are -- all the while sugarcoating its commodification of gentle greyhounds.

This reminds me of Baghdad Bob, the Iraqi "Information Minister" who would stand at his official podium and make absurd pronouncements during Desert Storm, insisting for example that American soldiers were committing suicide "by the hundreds" outside the city. He would even deny that there were American tanks in Baghdad, when in fact they could actually be heard in the background of his very broadcasts! Denial, anyone?

Things did not end well for Baghdad Bob (whose real name was Mohammed Saeed al-Sahhaf). After the war, he was captured by coalition forces, interrogated and released. After that, he simply faded away. The same will certainly happen to greyhound racing.

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