The blatant bias in parts of the McHugh Commission report

THERE is a quite bizarre quote which appears on the first page of Volume 1 of the McHugh Commission report, and, arguably, it sets the ‘tone’ for the entire document.

After claiming that 40% of the 97,783 greyhounds bred in NSW over the last 12 years never made it to the racetrack, it continues, ‘As one breeder stated, “Dogs who don’t have the instinct [to chase] or the tools to be a consistent winnerm- well a good handler can spot it a mile away…Most of the time I’d drown the pups.”’ (Vol 1, 1.5)

There are two points to be made about that quote. First, the breeder is unnamed. Second, the reason the breeder is unnamed is because he is an American, based very firmly in the United States.

The quote is taken from a book entitled Deviance and Social Control in Sport. The contents of the book have absolutely nothing to do with Australia or Australian greyhound racing. The following is part of the publicity blurb for the book:

‘Drawing on their cutting-edge research in criminology and deviance in the discipline of sociology, Atkinson and Young provide a textured understanding of sport-related deviance through the application of various approaches to deviance in a sport context. Using extended case studies, the authors examine the subject of deviance through examples that are popular (fan violence, hockey enforcers, effect of the media), understudied (sport-related violence against animals, athletes as on-field victims of violence), or emerging (sport security, drugs and weight control, cybernetic athletes, extreme sports). This engaging presentation allows readers to fully understand the effects of sport deviance in society.’

The book is very North American-centric as you would imagine, and includes the bizarre statement, ‘Sports such as greyhound racing…deliberately resemble warlike competition.’ (page 84)

What the McHugh Commission report didn’t include was the sentence which preceded the quote from the unnamed breeder.

It reads, ‘As a breeder, one of the skills you acquire is the ability to look at a pup and watch its gait for potential.’ I am sure Australian breeders reading that sentence wouldn’t know whether to laugh or cry at such blatant nonsense. Yet the comments by this unnamed American source are allowed to appear on page one of the McHugh report.

Moving closer to home, Jeff Collerson penned an article for the Daily Telegraph in which he stated, ‘As NSW’s most experienced greyhound journalist, having written on the sport for 54 years, including from 1968 to 2012 for News Limited, I made submissions to the inquiry and asked to be allowed to speak. Not only were my entreaties ignored, but I did not hear of anyone appearing at the judicial inquiry who had anything positive to say about the sport. It seems the inquiry only heard from animal rights activists and their ilk.’

It certainly looks as if anyone with anything positive to say about the industry is subtly reduced to a level of insignificance in the text of the report. Their comments are given a reference number and their name only appears in the reference to their quote at the bottom of the page.

And so Jeff Collerson, the doyen of racing writers with a half-century of journalism behind him, is simply referred to as ‘Another industry participant’, not once, but twice. (Vol 3, 28.14 & 28.18)

Conversely, Animals Australia (Vol 3 28.82), Dr Eleonora Gullone of the Animal Justice Party (Vol 3 28.83), Animal Liberation ACT (Vol 3 28.84) and The Animal Defender’s Office (Vol 3 28.85) are referred to by name. If Jeff Collerson can be reduced to ‘another industry participant’ then why weren’t the aforementioned also reduced to something like ‘another anti-greyhound person or body’?

The answer is obvious. The way these comments were threaded into the report smacks of a clear attempt to marginalize those voices speaking in favour by the subtle but very effective method of not ‘humanising’ the commentators while ensuring those who do not support the continuation of the sport were accorded either a name or an organization as a sub-conscious attempt to give their commentary that much more gravitas.

It is a form of intentional bias that would be laughable if the issue were not so serious.

Past Discussion

  1. Duncan, as a breeder I can tell you unequivocally that I don’t know until my pups are on the track after breaking in (14-15 months) how good they are.  I had a bitch pup once that had a congenital deformity of the back leg that ran within 0.04 seconds of a track record.

    The quote of “as a breeder from an unnamed American source” is absolute garbage.