Back to culture: why greyhound racing was attacked

Despacito gets a kiss – the loving bond between greyhound and trainer. PIC: Paul Munt.

THE remarkable thing about the English ruling classes is their cultural blindness. Every country they colonised they endeavoured to destroy the culture, sometimes out of malice but more often out of blindness to its strength, beauty and power.

Every revolution that occurred in Ireland for the nine hundred years of occupation was a fight for culture, once that desire to get “back to culture” gets lit in people’s hearts there is no putting it out. The Irish had a great reputation for hell-raising and jail filling a hundred years ago very much like our aboriginal population today.

Loss of culture leaves a deep gash in the hearts of men and women. The wounds of the stolen generations will themselves take generations to heal.

Two years ago a determined attack was launched on the culture of greyhound racing. The attackers were colonisers of a new kind but still white Anglo-Saxon middle class and operating by the same old rules. The coloniser is always self-righteous and superior, oblivious to the strength, beauty and power of a sport that for most of us was never a job but more a win-win relationship between animal and man.

The method of attack is to disparage, dehumanise and portray barbarity and base behaviour as the norm rather than the exception. Most reasonable independent observers now accept that the media storm that blew over greyhound racing blew more fiction than fact. The coloniser cannot edify a culture and co-exist they must reduce it to rubble and replace it with their “better” culture.

What better culture are we being offered? The innate desire to have a relationship with an animal is deep within many people. For lots of us it is the strongest and most important relationship we have. The critics of the sport of greyhound racing would like to see that relationship broken for ever and replaced with one where the dog is treated as a household companion and denied the innate desire it has to chase.

The cities are full of dogs that are very unhappy. They have been selectively bred for thousands of years to do a job largely by manipulation of their instinct to chase prey for food and then after thousands of years of fine tuning their skills they are told in the second half of the twentieth century we do not need your skills anymore, but you can spend your life in a small backyard getting frustrated or fat or in a lot of cases both.

I hear their frustration every night, no wonder tens of thousands of domestic dogs perish at the hands of vets annually.

In today’s world of sedation and automation there are fewer and fewer opportunities for human beings to enjoy a hands on real equal relationship with an animal species where there a rewards for both to enjoy. Farming enterprises are steadily becoming larger, more programmed and automated year on year. I hear sighs form those readers who believe all the propaganda that greyhounds are automated money making machines whose worth is only counted in dollar bills and the owners relationship with the dog is simply about money.

Sigh all you like, but you are an idiot. Greyhounds are bred to chase, they are bred to live in a pack, they perform because they are healthy and well looked after and they bloody love it.

They are not blood thirsty killers and neither are their owners. It is true they wear muzzles, but only because some early colonials were worried their sheep would be attacked and politicians ever since have not had the common sense to see that greyhounds are one of the most docile breeds of dogs alive. In my travels around Australia I have seen very few sheep in suburbia and even less greyhounds that were being denied a daily meal.

Greyhound owners and trainers would love to see many of their greyhounds moved into good homes in the community, however, between them, they should have the exclusive right to decide that a dog that has been observed and cared is suitable for transition into suburbia.

Some greyhounds, while being terrific chasers may have anti-social habits such as aggression towards other dogs, towards human beings, which is very rare, excessive barking or home demolition and in my opinion these dogs are not suitable for release into the community. No trainer makes this decision lightly, but neither should they be condemned for it. That greyhound lived a fulfilled life, probably more fulfilled than a great many Australian household pets.

The human discharge from this sport in the last couple of years has gone from a trickle to a flood. These people, largely middle aged, have lost their equivalent to the men’s shed or bingo night. Many live a lonelier existence with nothing but the TV or the pokie venue to replace it.

Thanks, but no thanks; you can keep your better culture.

Got feedback? Join the discussion Hide Comments

  1. As self serving smoke screens go Dr Fegan’s article about the “culture” of greyhound racing has got to be in the top five. I mean, come on, comparing a business enterprise with the clash of cultures in colonial India, or with the subjugation of Africa? Self aggrandize much? Dr. Fegan would have us believe the exploitation of innocent living creatures for profit is a “culture.” OK, Dr, Fegan, by that definition cannibalism is a culture. Murder for hire is a culture. Kidnapping for ransom is a culture.

    Let’s be honest here, Dr. Fegan. This is just another attempt to move the discussion away from the fact that you kill greyhounds for profit. I understand you have no response when confronted with the institutionalized cruelty and callous barbarity that is greyhound racing, but to try and pass yourselves of as the noble every man under the thumb of The Man is a bit much, even for you.

    I am a Board member of GREY2K USA.

  2. Fred you are on your last warning here.

    Do post another back link back to your site. It is trolling purely for SEO purposes.

  3. How very ironic.

    Grey2K comes on here inventing great injustices against animals but the posts are just faux outrage to plant backlinks to their website for commercial SEO reasons.

    I would say that is the plight of animals for your own commercial benefit if I have ever heard it.

  4. Trevor,
    You could argue that a prey drive refers to most or maybe all breeds of canines. The evolution of the greyhound involves the speed of hounds chasing by sight. There were 18th century experiments recorded of attempts to cross mastiff with greyhounds failed probably because cross breeding (including mixes with other hounds) produced dogs that were uncompetitive with greyhounds and dogs that were too slow to chase hares.
    Your post gets to the nub of the costs of preparing greyhounds for re homing and I would like to add to the conversation the various costs of rehoming.

    1. The English and Scottish Greyhound Retirement trust has over 60 branches and 1,000 volunteers and consistently prepares greyhounds 4,000 greyhound for re homing at what appears to be a cost of about $A 1500 per dog. The trust raises the expense through various activity and receives some limited funding (the trusts annual report is on the internet)

    2. The Cunnington report estimates the cost of preparing greyhounds for adoption (under our current system) varies from $A 3000 per dog to $A6,000. If 4,000 dogs per annum was the standard then the best case would be $12 million to worst case $24 million. PA.
      The worst case would be greyhounds with minimum social contact being prepared for clients with disposal income in the high income range.
      The cost of the English welfare trust model would involve a $2 million industry levy.
      Various country greyhound complex’a contain socialisation of greyhound facilities mainly at their carnivals.
      The most advanced proposal on the socialisation of greyhounds on tracks is the Gunnedah proposal of changing the use of the committee rooms and offices to produce a hospitality area adjoining the kennels for the joint hospitality of the connections on track with their greyhounds.
      The Cunnington proposal that the socialisation of greyhounds during their racing careers is financially viable as it reduces the cost to industry of re homing.
      The placement of retired greyhounds varies with the cliental base and your suggestion on the rehoming on farms etc carries a lot of weight as well.

  5. Fred knows it’s all about the SEO rankings and cash into the Grey2k pockets. These charlatans rake in more than a half million every year with their lies. Fred and his pals get a rise in their pants every time a greyhound is injured. Injuries that they exploit to pull in more cash.

  6. You know, I’m beginning to think you folks are just genetically incapable of sticking to a topic. Particularly when that topic is the fact that you kill greyhounds for money.

  7. Fred,
    I note that you are a professor in the department of writing, rhetoric and American Culture and you are also the Secretary of your organisation. I am curious what benefit you hope to derive by acting as a simpleton.

  8. I am positive. Positive I want greyhound exploitation to end. As for adoption, it is only a stopgap measure. To be quite blunt about it, people who adopt are just picking up your trash. You use greyhounds, then throw them away and expect people with hearts to take them off your hands. It will never stop as long as you are allowed to profit from the lives of these dogs.

  9. In the US we call that cherry picking. You use examples that support your premise while conveniently ignoring those that don’t. For instance, you talk about coursing but conveniently ignore the invention of the mechanical lure in 1905 which really was the birth of the racing industry and the beginning of the era of greyhound commodification for profit. You also ignore the fact that cultures change over time. For example, in both the US and Australia at one time women couldn’t vote. Now they can. Cultures evolve towards fairness and equality. As Dr. Martin Luther King once said "“Let us realize the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” The cultural argument does not favor the continuation of greyhound racing.

    I’m still hesitant to accept the cultural argument. Greyhound racing is a business that happens to exploit, injure and kill innocent living animals. Unless you want to argue that institutionalized cruelty, callous commodification and the willful infliction of pain and suffering are part of your cultural you’d best try a new tack.

  10. Although I do occasionally refer to individuals in racing, my general comments refer to the industry itself. When you have an institution based on cruelty and exploitation those who inhabit it–even though they may be nice people who give to charity and attend church–are still subject to its values. There were good slave owners and bad slave owners, but they were all still slave owners. That’s my point.