Queensland racing to remain stuck in the past

AT best, it will be more of the same old stuff. More likely, it will sustain the steady decline in the fortunes of Queensland greyhound racing.

The Queensland Parliament has just passed new laws which separate its new integrity unit from the rest of the racing industry, but only by a whisker. They needed the Speaker’s casting vote to get through. The LNP opposition as well as the industry itself were opposed for two main reasons; they objected to the new body covering all three racing codes and also to it being separated from normal code management.

Simultaneously, all three codes will also be under the control of a new and expanded board.

The new Queensland Racing Integrity Commission (QRIC) will be headed by one of the State’s most senior police officers, Ross Barnett.

The newish and inexperienced Racing Minister, Grace Grace, justified the changes on the basis of the 2015 McSporran Inquiry, claiming that it found …

“There were existing tensions between Racing Queensland’s commercial interests and its animal welfare and integrity interests.

“This led to the alarming situation whereby integrity and animal welfare risks were not being adequately assessed or managed.

“The former integrity regime was under-resourced and there was a clear lack of accountability, with some senior positions lacking job descriptions.”

No doubt, but it is also clear that each of these shortcomings represent a failure of management by the former boards and officials, most of whom have been sacked anyway. McSporran, a senior lawyer with no particular experience in racing or management structures, was employed to look into live baiting issues but his involvement there was of no great value as the breaches were all handled adequately under the normal system – leading to many disqualifications and prosecutions.

McSporran’s main, or only, “solution” to the management problem was simply to make the board bigger and to include some outsiders. He failed to consider whether the dubious concept of management by committee, which is standard in the racing industry, was up to the job. Modern organisations, whether sporting or commercial, recognise the inefficiency of those structures and have thrown them out.

Is there really a need to separate commercial and integrity functions?

The separation of commercial and integrity functions into different organisations is contentious. In my view, on balance it is undesirable and reflects a view that the code’s general manager cannot be competent to handle both needs. In contrast, I would argue that it suggests that the wrong person or the wrong structure has been in place yet neither matter was really addressed by McSporran or the Minister. Perhaps they were not qualified to do so.

For comparison, the function of a quality controller in manufacturing and other organisations is one that demands lots of professionalism and independence (without which it will not work) and which also reports directly to top management, not to the people in charge of the process itself.

Similarly, in airline operations, practices and standards applying to pilots and engineers fall under the general jurisdiction of independent government units but the actual duties and responsibilities are assigned to managers within each airline, all of whom have access to the top management of the company.

In either case, the quality controller is by definition a skilled operative himself rather than – as put forward for racing – a former policeman who may or may not know what he is looking at.

Victoria has also gone down the same path as McSporran but at the same time has installed a new but small (three-person) board and a CEO who came from the public service. Neither represents a fresh approach. They might help with administration but not with modern management and marketing techniques which the industry so sorely needs.

The NSW Special Commission addressing the same subjects was due to report by the end of March but nothing has been heard yet. The question of management effectiveness has come up there only indirectly as a function of some specific poor practices – eg not publicising euthanasia incidents, or not being aware of live baiting. No obvious attention has been paid to the nature and structure of the organisation itself. More’s the pity.

A trainer’s view on frequent racing

Victorian-based trainer Anthony Azzopardi threw some light on the distance racing-short backup debate after No Donuts thumped a useful field over 595m at Sandown. GRV News reported it this way.

“I’m not going to push him over the 700 until the time comes. The middle distance is perfect. He’s the type of dog that puts so much into it over the 700 that he doesn’t recover that well, it takes him a few days to get back to being himself. He’s not a stayer that you can keep up week to week, he needs a bit of break and he goes better that way. I’m picking and choosing his runs at the moment but when the time comes I’ll let him go and see what happens.”

This certainly amplifies the “dogs are not robots” theme – more power to the trainer. But how many others – dogs or trainers – take that approach? Judging by observations of runners paddling from the home turn in 700m races every week, not many.

Of course, it also suggests No Donuts will not be taking part in heat and final distance series which are invariably conducted seven days apart. Or will it?

Genetic change?

Either way, any state authority which wants to live up to its welfare claims will initiate serious studies of the impacts of high frequency racing. Nominally, that is a task that should be absorbed into the Greyhounds Australasia system (as it did with thumps or drug theory, for example) but that may be as exciting as watching paint dry. We need action, not least because – I would argue – we live in an era when in broad terms greyhounds are less robust and when fewer and fewer are capable of running longer distances.

As an amateur observation, it looks as though there has been a major shift in genetics over the last two decades. Can anyone prove or disprove that, or haven’t we bothered to look?

Here are two clues to aid investigators: first, follow the money and, second, why do a number of semi-official breeding websites include “endurance” amongst the greyhound’s attributes? It’s the last quality I would claim.

The greyhound’s value

A quick comment on a claim by reader “Hugh”, who states “Dogs don’t care about the dog racing industry. Humans care”.

Whether from a biological or commercial angle, and other factors aside, it is generally accepted that an animal species prospers when humans place a significant value on it. Since that is certainly true of the greyhound it then poses a conundrum for the minorities which want greyhound racing stopped. Would the species survive, or survive well, simply as a pet? Or would it end up as a product of the awful genetic mixes which are so prevalent in dog breeds these days?

Past Discussion

  1. I won’t dispute your comments that there are ineffective aspects to the management of the industry that have not been addressed by the McSporran recommendations, on that you have far more knowledge of these things.  However I do think that an independent regulator is, in principle, a hugely positive step when it comes to safeguarding animal welfare.  The temptation to give into profit maximising practices at the expense of animal welfare is too great.  Conflicts of interest should be avoided, and unlike the other examples you cite, the expertise needed to adequately assess animal welfare is not the exclusive domain of the racing industry.  Far from it, that expertise is to be found elsewhere, as yourself have pointed out when it comes to training practices and the lack of science behind it.  If it were not the case that self governance was ineffective then we wouldn’t have had a live baiting scandal to begin with.  The industry, in multiple states, was failing to look after welfare, and failing to put a stop to illegal practices.  Let us not forget that the most recent scandal was not the first time the issue of live baiting had been raised, it had been brought to light previously, but without the video evidence and the publicity required to outrage the public, and that is what made the difference.  The industry was indifferent until the public began to alarm politicians.

    I would disagree with the idea that it is “generally accepted” that a species prospers when humans put a value on it.  Humans have put a value on many species and as such have hunted and poached them to extinction, e.g. rhinos, whales, etc.  So that statement is clearly false.  Furthermore, there are countless species that would still be prospering if it were not for the actions of humans, we are in the middle of a mass extinction event of our own making.  What I think we can say is “generally accepted” is that the success of the human species has negatively affected a huge number of other animal species, and led to the flourishing of a few, which often comes at the expense of those few species’ welfare and wellbeing.  I’m sure the fact that there are millions more pigs on the planet than there used to be is small comfort to those pigs that spend their lives in a small cage on a concrete floor, never get to go outside and die at a fraction of their lifespan.
    You also need to adjust your definition of a species.  All domestic dog breeds are the same species, if they weren’t they wouldn’t be able to breed and produce viable offspring.  You state that genetic mix dogs are “awful”, but what is your criteria?  This is a purely subjective and emotive statement that arises only from the value that you (and others) place on a given dog breed.  You say you are always for an evidence based approach, perhaps take a moment to consider how objective and scientific your claim is.  You were selective in your quoting of me, I stated not only that dogs don’t care about racing, but also that they don’t care about what breed of dog they mate with.  Are you disputing this?  This seems like an obvious and critical piece of evidence, that greyhounds will happily mate with different breeds.  Claiming that maintaining the greyhound breed is in the dog’s best interest is akin to saying that it is in the interests of blonde haired blue eyed people to breed with other blonde haired blue eyed people.  That’s a completely subjective statement, and only true if it matters to those people, in which case they will make that choice.  Does it matter to the dogs?  No, it matters to the humans that own them.  I understand where you are coming from because dog breeding and racing is something you feel passionate about.  But surely you can see that the importance of preserving a dog breed is a purely human construction.
    Lastly, as you no doubt are well aware, pedigree breeds of dogs generally suffer from worse health than mongrels because they have less genetic diversity in their gene pool, and many of the aesthetic traits we have bred them to have directly affect health in a negative way.  Spine problems, hip problems, airway problems, the list goes on.  So in fact, the genetic mixes that you say are “awful”, in many cases will have superior health.  THAT is a more objective measure of what’s in a dog’s best interest than whether or not the breed conforms to the CRUFTS breeding standard.  How many dogs do you think have read the Kennel Club’s breeding standards guide?

  2. I won’t dispute your comments that there are ineffective aspects to the management of the industry that have not been addressed by the McSporran recommendations, on that you have far more knowledge of these things.  However I do think that an independent regulator is, in principle, a hugely positive step when it comes to safeguarding animal welfare.  The temptation to give into profit maximising practices at the expense of animal welfare is too great.  Conflicts of interest should be avoided, and unlike the other examples you cite, the expertise needed to adequately assess animal welfare is not the exclusive domain of the racing industry.  Far from it, that expertise is to be found elsewhere, as yourself have pointed out when it comes to training practices and the lack of science behind it.  If it were not the case that self governance was ineffective then we wouldn’t have had a live baiting scandal to begin with.  The industry, in multiple states, was failing to look after welfare, and failing to put a stop to illegal practices.  Let us not forget that the most recent scandal was not the first time the issue of live baiting had been raised, it had been brought to light previously, but without the video evidence and the publicity required to outrage the public, and that is what made the difference.  The industry was indifferent until the public began to alarm politicians.

    I would disagree with the idea that it is “generally accepted” that a species prospers when humans put a value on it.  Humans have put a value on many species and as such have hunted and poached them to extinction, e.g. rhinos, whales, etc.  So that statement is clearly false.  Furthermore, there are countless species that would still be prospering if it were not for the actions of humans, we are in the middle of a mass extinction event of our own making.  What I think we can say is “generally accepted” is that the success of the human species has negatively affected a huge number of other animal species, and led to the flourishing of a few, which often comes at the expense of those few species’ welfare and wellbeing.  I’m sure the fact that there are millions more pigs on the planet than there used to be is small comfort to those pigs that spend their lives in a small cage on a concrete floor, never get to go outside and die at a fraction of their lifespan.

    You also need to adjust your definition of a species.  All domestic dog breeds are the same species, if they weren’t they wouldn’t be able to breed and produce viable offspring.  You state that genetic mix dogs are “awful”, but what is your criteria?  This is a purely subjective and emotive statement that arises only from the value that you (and others) place on a given dog breed.  You say you are always for an evidence based approach, perhaps take a moment to consider how objective and scientific your claim is.  You were selective in your quoting of me, I stated not only that dogs don’t care about racing, but also that they don’t care about what breed of dog they mate with.  Are you disputing this?  This seems like an obvious and critical piece of evidence, that greyhounds will happily mate with different breeds.  Claiming that maintaining the greyhound breed is in the dog’s best interest is akin to saying that it is in the interests of blonde haired blue eyed people to breed with other blonde haired blue eyed people.  That’s a completely subjective statement, and only true if it matters to those people, in which case they will make that choice.  Does it matter to the dogs?  No, it matters to the humans that own them.  I understand where you are coming from because dog breeding and racing is something you feel passionate about.  But surely you can see that the importance of preserving a dog breed is a purely human construction.

    Lastly, as you no doubt are well aware, pedigree breeds of dogs generally suffer from worse health than mongrels because they have less genetic diversity in their gene pool, and many of the aesthetic traits we have bred them to have directly affect health in a negative way.  Spine problems, hip problems, airway problems, the list goes on.  So in fact, the genetic mixes that you say are “awful”, in many cases will have superior health.  THAT is a more objective measure of what’s in a dog’s best interest than whether or not the breed conforms to the CRUFTS breeding standard.  How many dogs do you think have read the Kennel Club’s breeding standards guide?

  3. It’s seems passing strange that you introduce an integrity commissioner and immediately appoint a policeman, now that is laughable, less integrity would be hard to find, maybe if you appointed an ex politician it would come close

  4. It’s seems passing strange that you introduce an integrity commissioner and immediately appoint a policeman, now that is laughable, less integrity would be hard to find, maybe if you appointed an ex politician it would come close

  5. Hugh_ Agreed with all your statements. Mr. Teague likes to talk up what he sees is the unparalleled health of greyhounds when compared to dogs bred as pets and he and others attribute this apparent health to the industry breeding out traits that aren’t conducive to winning races. What they don’t talk about is osteosarcoma which is at epidemic proportions amongst older greyhounds, but which the industry cares nothing about because it affects the dogs long after their income producing years are over.

  6. Hugh_ Agreed with all your statements. Mr. Teague likes to talk up what he sees is the unparalleled health of greyhounds when compared to dogs bred as pets and he and others attribute this apparent health to the industry breeding out traits that aren’t conducive to winning races. What they don’t talk about is osteosarcoma which is at epidemic proportions amongst older greyhounds, but which the industry cares nothing about because it affects the dogs long after their income producing years are over.

  7. MarionPurnell Hugh_ I don’t think it likely that Bruce and I would ever see eye-to-eye on many of these things, but I do appreciate that he’s willing to engage in the discussion.

  8. MarionPurnell Hugh_ I don’t think it likely that Bruce and I would ever see eye-to-eye on many of these things, but I do appreciate that he’s willing to engage in the discussion.

  9. OSA is found in 5% of dogs with the most likely dogs to fall victim are dogs in excess of 40k so another furphy from Marion Purcell my research took less than 3 minutes, make it up Marion, don’t spoil a good story with the truth., not many 40k greyhounds

  10. OSA is found in 5% of dogs with the most likely dogs to fall victim are dogs in excess of 40k so another furphy from Marion Purcell my research took less than 3 minutes, make it up Marion, don’t spoil a good story with the truth., not many 40k greyhounds

  11. Well, well, well. Old Hughie Mungbean is still at it, talking dribble and trying to sound educated at the same time.
    You are a lunatic, aren’t you Hughie.
    You have absolutely no idea about the idiosyncrasies of the industry but you still try to give poor old Bruce a headache.
    When are you going to wake up that it doesn’t work because a) he has been around the bush once or twice, and b) he laughs at your ignorance.
    Now, what’s more important is this, Hughie.
    Have you totally abstained from consuming dairy products, you hypocrite?
    Breeding…you have absolutely no idea.

  12. Well, well, well. Old Hughie Mungbean is still at it, talking dribble and trying to sound educated at the same time.

    You are a lunatic, aren’t you Hughie.

    You have absolutely no idea about the idiosyncrasies of the industry but you still try to give poor old Bruce a headache.

    When are you going to wake up that it doesn’t work because a) he has been around the bush once or twice, and b) he laughs at your ignorance.

    Now, what’s more important is this, Hughie.

    Have you totally abstained from consuming dairy products, you hypocrite?

    Breeding…you have absolutely no idea.

  13. No SAV Haha, my old friend it’s good to hear from you.  Yes, as a matter of fact I have recently stopped consuming dairy and meat products entirely.  But for a long time the only dairy products I consumed were from barambah organics, which have very high welfare standards.  We covered this previously, perhaps you forgot.

    There’s really no value in simply asserting that someone has no idea what they are talking about (other than perhaps to make yourself feel good).  I’ve articulated my view clearly and I’m happy to have anything I’ve said challenged.  I’m always happy to alter my views in light of new information, sadly you never bring any, you just bring bluster.

    I can cite studies about the genetic defects and health disorders of pedigree dogs if you like.  If you want to actually educate yourself, go to scholar.google.com and start searching through the peer reviewed research in these areas.

  14. No SAV Haha, my old friend it’s good to hear from you.  Yes, as a matter of fact I have recently stopped consuming dairy and meat products entirely.  But for a long time the only dairy products I consumed were from barambah organics, which have very high welfare standards.  We covered this previously, perhaps you forgot.

    There’s really no value in simply asserting that someone has no idea what they are talking about (other than perhaps to make yourself feel good).  I’ve articulated my view clearly and I’m happy to have anything I’ve said challenged.  I’m always happy to alter my views in light of new information, sadly you never bring any, you just bring bluster.

    I can cite studies about the genetic defects and health disorders of pedigree dogs if you like.  If you want to actually educate yourself, go to scholar.google.com and start searching through the peer reviewed research in these areas.  Unfortunately if you’re not affiliated with a university or research institute you may not be able to access much of it, but you can read abstracts which summarise the findings.

  15. Todman, you are right, he is a nutter.
    But he has more sides to him than that I think.
    I think he is lonely, yes, a lonely man wanting to make new friends by showing his converse versatility.
    The problems with that are many.
    One is he chooses a subject, Greyhounds, in which he has no intimate knowledge of, therefore, is restricted to debating peripheral subjects which render the progression of the core subject, Greyhounds, utterly useless.
    Another is he is contributing to Bruce’s incontinence problem by making him laugh too much…not a good look at all.
    The most disturbing problem in my mind is he thinks Bruce is engaging with him….say again.
    Throwing you a chip, Hughie, isn’t engaging my vegan friend.
    I hope that isn’t too blustery for you, Hughie.
    I stand humiliated and offended that speaking straight and true can be construed as BLUSTER!
    Well, I never…..
    On a more positive note, very proud of you Hughie Mungbean for becoming a full blown vegan. It makes you a little less hypocritical.
    All you need to do now is take a leaf out of the Pretty Woman movie, get out of your propaganda generating orifice, take off your shoes and feel the soft moist grass beneath your webbed feet.
    U0001f60a

  16. Todman, you are right, he is a nutter.

    But he has more sides to him than that I think.

    I think he is lonely, yes, a lonely man wanting to make new friends by showing his converse versatility.

    The problems with that are many.

    One is he chooses a subject, Greyhounds, in which he has no intimate knowledge of, therefore, is restricted to debating peripheral subjects which render the progression of the core subject, Greyhounds, utterly useless.

    Another is he is contributing to Bruce’s incontinence problem by making him laugh too much…not a good look at all.

    The most disturbing problem in my mind is he thinks Bruce is engaging with him….say again.

    Throwing you a chip, Hughie, isn’t engaging my vegan friend.

    I hope that isn’t too blustery for you, Hughie.

    I stand humiliated and offended that speaking straight and true can be construed as BLUSTER!

    Well, I never…..

    On a more positive note, very proud of you Hughie Mungbean for becoming a full blown vegan. It makes you a little less hypocritical.

    All you need to do now is take a leaf out of the Pretty Woman movie, get out of your propaganda generating orifice, take off your shoes and feel the soft moist grass beneath your webbed feet.

    \U0001f60a

  17. No SAV Yep, that’s great, I don’t really care what unfounded speculations you have about me.  You made a claim that I “have no clue”, yet you offer no actual counter arguments.  All you can do is make unfounded statements and fail to back them up because despite your “intimate knowledge” you apparently don’t have any understanding anything about evolution, genetics or animal physiology.  I do.  Go educate yourself.

  18. No SAV Yep, that’s great, I don’t really care what unfounded speculations you have about me.  You made a claim that I “have no clue”, yet you offer no actual counter arguments.  All you can do is make unfounded statements and fail to back them up because despite your “intimate knowledge” you apparently don’t have any understanding anything about evolution, genetics or animal physiology.  I do.  Go educate yourself.