Live baiting: the second major battle that needs to be won

In a previous article I made reference to ‘wastage’, that dreadful euphemism for the elimination of healthy animals, as the first battle that needs to be won among the general public if greyhound racing in NSW is to stand a chance of rehabilitation in the state.

The second major battleground must obviously be the issue of live baiting.

There were a number of witnesses to the Commission who expressed claims that a ‘majority’ of trainers were engaged in the practice. Considering most of these witnesses had been summonsed to appear and were known offenders, it is quite possible they ramped up the numbers as a method of excusing their own abhorrent behaviour.

The McHugh Commission noted that Bruce Carr, ‘a licensed trainer who engaged in live baiting and assisted others to do it at [a] training track he owned, said in evidence that he thought only 10-20% of trainers engaged in live baiting. His involvement in, and actual knowledge of, live baiting was greater than any other person who gave evidence about the subject. The Commission thinks that his evidence is more likely to be correct than the “guestimates” of other witnesses…’ (Vol 1, 3.102)

So, the Commission, after examining all the evidence before it and weighing up the veracity of statements and claims, reached the conclusion some 10 to 20% of trainers are, or were, engaged in live baiting. As I noted in a previous article, that means 80% of trainers are not believed to be engaged in live baiting.

According to the Commission, there were 1,846 registered owner-trainers and 1,470 public trainers in NSW in 2015, a total of 3,316 individuals. Based on those numbers, around 2,653 individuals are not engaged in live baiting.

The Working Dog Alliance (WDA) report commissioned in 2015 by GRNSW took the view ‘there is no evidence to support the belief that it is necessary to use either a live animal or animal-derived product to teach a greyhound to chase a lure.’ (Vol 1, 3.112) Clearly, at least 2,653 trainers in NSW are of the same opinion.

As with most of the issues brought up before the Commission, the rank failure of successive administrations of greyhound racing in the state to address them in any meaningful or forceful way allowed the practices to continue almost unabated.

Paul Newson, appointed interim Chief Executive Officer of GRNSW in February 2015, said he had given a number of forums with industry participants and some participants ‘made it clear…in no uncertain terms that they still supported live baiting.’ (Vol 1, 3.209) Based on the Commission’s figures, that vocal minority may number as many as 663 persons.

After taking further evidence from Newson regarding what he had uncovered in past minutes of the Board in control of racing in the state, the Commission said it, ‘…accepts the evidence of Mr Newson that there was a failure of leadership within GRNSW to take any adequate steps towards dealing with the problem of live baiting.

Indeed, GRNSW management moved in a very slow fashion, if at all, and in a manner that appeared to accept the existence of, rather than to challenge and seek to eradicate, the practice of live baiting. There were also deficiencies in record keeping systems and case management.’ (Vol 1, 3.305)

It will come as no surprise that the Commission ‘…is also of the view that, quite apart from any potential criminal liability, there should be no place in the greyhound racing industry for any person who is properly found to be involved in live baiting. Disqualification for life is not too harsh a penalty.’ (Vol 1, 3.308)

I have absolutely no doubt this is exactly the view of all decent people involved in greyhound racing.