Angry stories will never work

AS SOMEONE once said, what we have here is a failure to communicate.

From all points of the compass, what is emerging is that the truth, the real facts, all of them, are not obvious to many people. Sure, the live baiting film is as clear as a pikestaff, and the offenders will be dealt with. But there is much more to it than that.

Plainly, few people understand how greyhound racing is organised and conducted. For that the industry must take the blame. It has a terrible habit of talking only to insiders and then thinking it has done its job. It forgets that people in the street or at the TAB form their impressions from the last thing they saw, or what their mates told them, or they transfer their reactions from an unrelated activity to racing.

For example, Glenn McGrath’s elephant shooting has now grabbed the headlines and, being a nasty and unacceptable practice, it now gets attached to live bait abuses by some greyhound trainers. One embellishes the other. People cement their opinions.

All that is possible only because the industry has never bothered to talk to the public, to understand how they feel and how they look at the industry. Yes, it has done bits and pieces here and there but it has not sunk in the way it needs to. That effort has been narrowly focused – essentially as one-off promotions – and therefore only narrowly successful. It’s not enough and it is superficial..

One particular aspect comes up repeatedly. Amongst many others, reader “Hugh” said this: “If you had genuine empathy for animals you would have done something about this, but you all turned a blind eye”.

But here’s the rub. The industry does not work that way. Of all the people involved in greyhound racing in one way or another, 99% would not have a clue about how the dogs are prepared and trained, or where. The majority of those have probably never been on a racetrack, let alone a trainer’s premises or a trial track. Anything they “know” would have been heard from a mate or perhaps seen on a SKY picture. It would be gossip or innuendo at best.

In the main, the other 1% would be trainers. Many of those claim to be horrified at the live baiting, which is probably fair dinkum. However, their claims of a lack of knowledge of the practice would have to be taken with a grain of salt.

After a lifetime of interest in greyhound racing and thousands of visits to tracks I also have heard many whispers and fancy stories. You never get details because it is always third or fourth hand anyway. Even if you wanted to, what can you do with those?

Trotting off to the stewards to repeat the yarns is pointless and a waste of time. It’s not evidence and you don’t have enough information even to point them in the right direction. But you should not have to do that anyway. We, the punters, pay people to do that work – they are called industry managers and stewards.

As a comparison, I am well aware that our society includes murderers, robbers, rapists and wife-beaters but I have never witnessed such events myself, and probably never will. Yet my worries are eased by the fact that we have an active policing and court system to handle such crimes. The community rightly expects those systems to perform or be held to account. Meantime, individuals do what they can to support those efforts – utilising Crime Stoppers is one example.

In theory, greyhound racing has a roughly comparable office itself – in NSW it is the Integrity Auditor, an independent official. Sadly, it has not worked too well in practice and is now under review together with all other aspects of the Greyhound Act. But it could and should be used by people with an axe to grind or a genuine irregularity to report. Other states have comparable functions available to all.

For my part, since I have no knowledge or competence in the live-baiting context I cannot be held to “turn a blind eye” as “Hugh” and others claim. However, I have a long history of making public complaints about stewardship processes, many of which have been outlined in this forum. Usually, these concern erratic racing form or a disagreement with stewards’ actions about fighting, failing to chase or track layouts – areas where I have some degree of knowledge gained from decades of experience, observations and in-depth statistical analyses.

Indeed, it was over 20 years ago that I remonstrated so persistently with the GRA boss at the time (he used to be called Secretary to the Board) that he arranged for me to present a case to the monthly stewards’ meeting. In the event, my advice and evidence went in one ear and out the other and nothing was achieved. As it happened, that meeting was chaired by Rodney Potter, who ended up in jail on another matter, while the code’s management was roundly criticised by ICAC after related hearings. The culture was suspect even then.

I finished that meeting with a suggestion that stewards should be issued with laptop computers, which they could load up prior to a meeting and therefore have all the information they needed at their fingertips. They all laughed their heads off, regarding it as a Dick Tracy joke. (Is it coincidental that Apple is about to launch a wrist watch computer?). Well, we have made some progress since then in both software and hardware but not, it appears, in the way stewards think and act. That, surely, is the nub of the problem, not the actions of the innocent 99% looking on.

Finally, my advice to “Hugh” and the dozens of critics from animal lover groups is to concentrate their efforts on those who are actually responsible for committing and identifying abuses. Continuing on their present path is not only misguided but will create antipathy towards them amongst the wider greyhound community. They could make a start by throwing out the posters and banners calling for a stop to government subsidy of the industry. That nonsense is a blatant lie and the exact opposite of the actual money flow.

Past Discussion

  1. There have always been Chinese whispers Bruce, there always will be. But as you say whispers aren’t proof and most in greyhound racing have never seen live baiting. I don’t agree with the anti-racing brigades claims that the practice is widespread, but agree that those paid to investigate any illegal practice should be doing more. I cannot be held accountable for the illegal and immoral act of another participant, nor should I be. The people who need to be held accountable are the racing police and the people who pay them. To blame an entire family for a murder committed by one of their members is ludicrous at best. As for the popular theory that greyhound racing is subsidised and relies on government funds to maintain it’s business, that is the most epic lie of all. Lastly, as an industry participant at grass roots level, I can say hand on heart I have never seen or been involved with the practice of live baiting. The 4 Corners expose absolutely disgusted and sickened me. I am grateful the perpetrators have been exposed and are being dealt with, BUT the actions of 4 Corners and their backers should also be scrutinised. If they had shared their footage with the authorities immediately, and given the authorities the opportunity to investigate and apprehend all involved before the footage went to air, the present legal battles would not be an issue.

  2. There have always been Chinese whispers Bruce, there always will be. But as you say whispers aren’t proof and most in greyhound racing have never seen live baiting. I don’t agree with the anti-racing brigades claims that the practice is widespread, but agree that those paid to investigate any illegal practice should be doing more. I cannot be held accountable for the illegal and immoral act of another participant, nor should I be. The people who need to be held accountable are the racing police and the people who pay them. To blame an entire family for a murder committed by one of their members is ludicrous at best. As for the popular theory that greyhound racing is subsidised and relies on government funds to maintain it’s business, that is the most epic lie of all. Lastly, as an industry participant at grass roots level, I can say hand on heart I have never seen or been involved with the practice of live baiting. The 4 Corners expose absolutely disgusted and sickened me. I am grateful the perpetrators have been exposed and are being dealt with, BUT the actions of 4 Corners and their backers should also be scrutinised. If they had shared their footage with the authorities immediately, and given the authorities the opportunity to investigate and apprehend all involved before the footage went to air, the present legal battles would not be an issue.

  3. Bruce, as Senator Leyonjelm stated, GRNSW is responsible for the welfare of greyhounds, and greyhounds only. The RSPCA is responsible for the other animals, and live baiting is the responsibility of the Police.

    The sport has become  a whipping boy for the failure of others, including Govt. The fact is the issue was raised at the Inquiry and those responsible with the powers to do something, did nothing. GRNSW doesn’t have the powers, and should never be given them, these powers should stay where they are, with the Police, and they should address this issue from their existing budget.

  4. Bruce, as Senator Leyonjelm stated, GRNSW is responsible for the welfare of greyhounds, and greyhounds only. The RSPCA is responsible for the other animals, and live baiting is the responsibility of the Police.

    The sport has become  a whipping boy for the failure of others, including Govt. The fact is the issue was raised at the Inquiry and those responsible with the powers to do something, did nothing. GRNSW doesn’t have the powers, and should never be given them, these powers should stay where they are, with the Police, and they should address this issue from their existing budget.

  5. Mr Newson going out to meet the people at Cessnock . Great , except the contact numbers on social media are two of the biggest problems of the industry . Talk about the blind leading the blind .

  6. Mr Newson going out to meet the people at Cessnock . Great , except the contact numbers on social media are two of the biggest problems of the industry . Not the action by the powers to be I was hoping for !

  7. jeff holland Agreed it is absurd for a small agency like GRNSW to have absolute powers in the wider public interest..

  8. Unfairly Tarred Previous Taboo (tabu) subject possibly? banned activity and a ban to talk about it?. Guilty always think their criminal activity is widespread and innocents think the opposite. The situation is now healthy and dangerous. The various state control boards have been either complicate and naive or both. There has been a gravity in the failure to warn people involved in criminal activity of the serious risks they have been taking. The history of blooding greyhounds has more pronounced roots in the States other than NSW. (NSW introduced mechanical greyhound racing about three decades before the other mainland states). Also NSW had the advantage of ICAC 2000 which dealt with the potential of criminal charges for welfare related drug profiling. (See ICAC recommendations). NSW is copping a lot of the attention early due to its Minister being on the front foot.

  9. Unfairly Tarred Previous Taboo (tabu) subject possibly? banned activity and a ban to talk about it?. Guilty always think their criminal activity is widespread and innocents think the opposite. The situation is now healthy and dangerous. The various state control boards have been either complicate / naive or both. There has been a gravity in the failure to warn people involved in criminal activity of the serious risks they have been taking. The history of blooding greyhounds has more pronounced roots in the States other than NSW. (NSW introduced mechanical greyhound racing about three decades before the other mainland states). Also NSW had the advantage of ICAC 2000 which dealt with the potential of criminal charges for welfare related drug profiling. (See ICAC recommendations). NSW is copping a lot of the attention early due to its Minister being on the front foot.

  10. I was a steward at that meeting 20 years ago and the reason the Stewards laughed at your suggestion of lap tops for each member was because we were lucky to have a 2 way radio (walky talky) that worked and were issued with a cheap pair of binoculars from K Mart.
    Other than the city tracks, stewards had no access to race replays unless they queued at the video truck with customers. If we were lucky, we could take trainers to the same truck to show them why we made decisions re marring etc.
    You claim to have been frequenting 1000’s of meetings, yet not one steward had heard of you or seen you and because the board wouldn’t purchase your software, you have been “bagging” the stewards ever since.
    For your information, Stewards have 15-20 mins between races. They watch the race, make an immediate decision at its conclusion regarding swabbing, marring, vetting etc. Must then receive betting advice, view a replay to compile an incident report and interview participants.
    Stop nit picking!!!

  11. I was a steward at that meeting 20 years ago and the reason the Stewards laughed at your suggestion of lap tops for each member was because we were lucky to have a 2 way radio (walky talky) that worked and were issued with a cheap pair of binoculars from K Mart.

    Other than the city tracks, stewards had no access to race replays unless they queued at the video truck with customers. If we were lucky, we could take trainers to the same truck to show them why we made decisions re marring etc.

    You claim to have been frequenting 1000’s of meetings, yet not one steward had heard of you or seen you and because the board wouldn’t purchase your software, you have been “bagging” the stewards ever since.

    For your information, Stewards have 15-20 mins between races. They watch the race, make an immediate decision at its conclusion regarding swabbing, marring, vetting etc. Must then receive betting advice, view a replay to compile an incident report and interview participants.

    Stop nit picking!!!

  12. John Tracey Unfairly Tarred 

    John I train in NZ. Our governing body has been pro-active. I have a small team of six in work at any one time. The majority of trainers in NZ have 10 or less dogs. We don’t have privately run trial tracks here, so must trial publically at the race track proper. The potential for this to happen here is non existent. The fallout from the exposed activity has negatively impacted on everyone in the broader industry. It has also had a negative impact on those who have adopted ex-racers and those rehoming ex-racers. The activity uncovered was abhorrent, and goes against everything I believe in. To put the industry in peril in such a way is unfathomable. The excuses offered up by those exposed are obscene. The legal threats from associates of some are just another slap in the face for the industry. The furore has died down here, although anti-racing groups are doing there best to keep it alive and solicit as much support as they can . I am not responsible, and nor are the majority of honest, hardworking trainers in Australia.

  13. John Tracey Unfairly Tarred 

    John I train in NZ. Our governing body has been pro-active. I have a small team of six in work at any one time. The majority of trainers in NZ have 10 or less dogs. We don’t have privately run trial tracks here, so must trial publically at the race track proper. The potential for this to happen here is non existent. The fallout from the exposed activity has negatively impacted on everyone in the broader industry. It has also had a negative impact on those who have adopted ex-racers and those rehoming ex-racers. The activity uncovered was abhorrent, and goes against everything I believe in. To put the industry in peril in such a way is unfathomable. The excuses offered up by those exposed are obscene. The legal threats from associates of some are just another slap in the face for the industry. The furore has died down here, although anti-racing groups are doing there best to keep it alive and solicit as much support as they can . I am not responsible, and nor are the majority of honest, hardworking trainers in Australia.

  14. Unfairly Tarred John Tracey Looking at the GA stats NZ had certainly advanced and punching above their weight providing racing. In NSW we have about ten times more breeding activity than NZ so a small percentage of criminal activity in NSW would show per capita but would appear to be actual high raw numbers. We have the same situation as you regarding greyhounds being trained on race course , obviously the large majority of greyhound people use the amenity on the race tracks like yourselves and also use the small number of registered trial tracks legally. The problem revealed by the welfare groups is mainly on private unregistered grounds containing breaking in and track facilities. There is criminal activity in all enterprises and this must be controlled. The GBOTA lobbied successfully for race stir ups behind the mechanical lure, this took ten years to get through and has obvious welfare advantages, they also have been lobbying unsuccessfully for mechanical hare finish ons in races. This reform was introduced but obviously defeated in part by the cheats. The association has provided slipping tracks in many locations and has provided butcher’s prepared rabbits to be used in training and trials on tracks so that the people who believe (for whatever reason) that this is necessary can transfer in stages to mechanical lures which suit the greyhound (sight hounds) better. The association also provides twenty eight branches in the State to assist participants, encourages welfare groups on tracks, runs charity meetings and has purchased land for a welfare friendly development in the far rural regions. Maybe we should be singing the praises of the people who are doing the right thing. Thanks for your post it is great to hear good news.

  15. Unfairly Tarred John Tracey Looking at the GA stats NZ had certainly advanced and punching above their weight providing racing. In NSW we have about ten times more breeding activity than NZ so a small percentage of criminal activity in NSW would show per capita but would appear to be actual high raw numbers. We have the same situation as you regarding greyhounds being trained on race course , obviously the large majority of greyhound people use the amenity on the race tracks like yourselves and also use the small number of registered trial tracks legally. The problem revealed by the welfare groups is mainly on private unregistered grounds containing breaking in and track facilities. There is criminal activity in all enterprises and this must be controlled. The GBOTA lobbied successfully for race stir ups behind the mechanical lure, this took ten years to get through and has obvious welfare advantages, they also have been lobbying unsuccessfully for mechanical hare finish ons in races. This reform was introduced but obviously defeated in part by the cheats. The association has provided slipping tracks in many locations and has provided butcher’s prepared rabbits to be used in training and trials on tracks so that the people who believe (for whatever reason) that this is necessary can transfer in stages to mechanical lures which suit the greyhound (sight hounds) better. The association also provides twenty eight branches in the State to assist participants, encourages welfare groups on tracks, runs charity meetings and has purchased land for a welfare friendly development in the far rural regions. Maybe we should be singing the praises of the people who are doing the right thing. Thanks for your post it is great to hear good news.

  16. John Tracey Unfairly Tarred 
    A number of dogs arrive in NZ from Australia that have been stood down for either failing to pursue or marring. They do very well here on our finish on lures. I have always wondered why Australia persisted with the catching pens as the dog never gets the prize, and they soon wake up to that fact. Thank you for your reply, it was very interesting. I agree, promote those who are doing the right thing, they are the majority. Best wishes to you and your industry.

  17. John Tracey Unfairly Tarred 

    A number of dogs arrive in NZ from Australia that have been stood down for either failing to pursue or marring. They do very well here on our finish on lures. I have always wondered why Australia persisted with the catching pens as the dog never gets the prize, and they soon wake up to that fact. Thank you for your reply, it was very interesting. I agree, promote those who are doing the right thing, they are the majority. Best wishes to you and your industry.

  18. Unfairly Tarred John Tracey Hi there again thanks for your latest post. I have cut and pasted a reply I have made to another thread thanks for your information
    Katherine, thanks again for being on the front foot. The Queensland legislation does not have a specific prevention of cruelty to animals act like NSW  but it has a range of animal protection , cat and dog management acts and police acts. While the maximum jail penalty for related criminal offences is half that of NSW 1 year versus 2 years the offences in Qld unlike NSW allow exposure of the CEO of corporations to face jail time as well.
    It is interesting the most prominent trainer in Qld has been given a life sentence by the racing authority as he was the most strident critic of the mechanical finish on lures in races. Also it is interesting the violent re action to the finish ons down South. Obviously cheats don’t like anything which might level the playing field . 
    If I could offer encouragement I would suggest that the Metropolitan District Association of the NSW GBOTA continue its fight to have the mechanical lure finish ons introduced in some form or other in NSW. The previous adventures in the above area were tainted.

  19. Unfairly Tarred John Tracey Hi there again thanks for your latest post. I have cut and pasted a reply I have made to another thread thanks for your information

    Katherine, thanks again for being on the front foot. The Queensland legislation does not have a specific prevention of cruelty to animals act like NSW  but it has a range of animal protection , cat and dog management acts and police acts. While the maximum jail penalty for related criminal offences is half that of NSW 1 year versus 2 years the offences in Qld unlike NSW allow exposure of the CEO of corporations to face jail time as well.

    It is interesting the most prominent trainer in Qld has been given a life sentence by the racing authority as he was the most strident critic of the mechanical finish on lures in races. Also it is interesting the violent re action to the finish ons down South. Obviously cheats don’t like anything which might level the playing field . 

    If I could offer encouragement I would suggest that the Metropolitan District Association of the NSW GBOTA continue its fight to have the mechanical lure finish ons introduced in some form or other in NSW. The previous adventures in the above area were tainted.

  20. Queensland Racing Board’s indication that it will take a good faith approach to  the Government inquiry forced onto them is obviously welcome and expected.
    The South Australia’s statement re toughing up legislation adds to the hype but once you look into it they already have the toughest animal welfare laws now. (see cut and paste).ANIMAL WELFARE ACT 1985 – SECT 13
    13—Ill treatment of animals 

            (1)         If— 

              (a)         a person ill treats an animal; and 

                (b)         the ill treatment http://www5.austlii.edu.au/au/legis/sa/consol_act/awa1985128/s13.html#cause the death of, or serious harm to, the animal; and 

                (c)         the person intends to http://www5.austlii.edu.au/au/legis/sa/consol_act/awa1985128/s13.html#cause, or is reckless about causing, the death of, or serious harm to, the animal, 

    the person is guilty of an offence. 

    Maximum penalty: $50 000 or imprisonment for 4 years. 

            (2)         A person who ill treats an animal is guilty of an offence. 

    Maximum penalty: $20 000 or imprisonment for 2 years. 
    The national body Greyhounds Australasia and their various control board representatives could be productive by recommending to the various state authorities that they standardise their legislation and all have a prevention of cruelty act with common sub clauses and penalty.

  21. Queensland Racing Board’s indication that it will take a good faith approach to  the Government inquiry forced onto them is obviously welcome and expected.

    The South Australia’s statement re toughing up legislation adds to the hype but once you look into it they already have the toughest animal welfare laws now. (see cut and paste).

    ANIMAL WELFARE ACT 1985 – SECT 13

    13—Ill treatment of animals 

            (1)         If— 

              (a)         a person ill treats an animal; and 

                (b)         the ill treatment causes the death of, or serious harm to, the animal; and 

                (c)         the person intends to cause, or is reckless about causing, the death of, or serious harm to, the animal, 

    the person is guilty of an offence. 

    Maximum penalty: 000 or imprisonment for 4 years. 

            (2)         A person who ill treats an animal is guilty of an offence. 

    Maximum penalty:  000 or imprisonment for 2 years. 

    The national body Greyhounds Australasia and their various control board representatives could be productive by recommending to the various state authorities that they standardise their legislation and all have a prevention of cruelty act with common sub clauses and penalty. 

  22. John Tracey Standardised legislation would be welcomed. NZ and Australia are both part of GA. So all Australian states and New Zealand should work together to make this happen.

  23. John Tracey Standardised legislation would be welcomed. NZ and Australia are both part of GA. So all Australian states and New Zealand should work together to make this happen.