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.