At last – modernising the greyhound racing industry
AT LONG last, another state has elected to run formal trials of the finish-on-lure. GRV will start off with a meeting at Geelong next month and continue for eight weeks. Unofficial trials have already been held at five Victorian tracks in order to fine down the specifications of the arm and lure.
The new lure will be of the hooped style, 1.2m high and 1.5m away from the rail, both distances much larger than current practice with conventional arm lures. It generally conforms to some of the lures in use in New Zealand and also at Mt Gambier and Gawler in South Australia. Previous experiments at Angle Park and Albion Park were successful but were discontinued following objections from some trainers.
NSW conducted short FOL trials at two tracks – apparently successfully – but failed to continue on or even announce reasons for their terminations. The current Victorian effort also represents a radical change from what were reputed to be “over my dead body” views from the previous administration.
The new design aims to improve chasing keenness and provide a reward to runners at the end of the trip.
However, it may well offer a bonus. Observations of NZ races and photos of the GRV trials indicate that dogs spread out a little more on the track, which could reduce interference caused by bunching at the first turn. If that happens it could cause a minor revolution in the way races are run in this country – all to the good.
More technology could boost greyhounds
In an area barely touched by racing, Walter Schroder of Big Data Solutions at NetApp A/NZ points to new ways in which science is supporting sports of all kinds (The Australian, 17 July).
“Vast amounts of data are generated in any event, he says. In every second a ball is hit, or when a Formula One car roars around the track, streams of unstructured data are generated. Such data can yield useful statistics, information and insights, from an individual's performance to a team's ability to function together effectively. However, these insights are only available if this sheer abundance of information is captured, processed and stored effectively.”
This is one of several avenues available to assess the worth and performance of greyhound tracks, and also to allow trainers/coaches to better understand how their charges are racing. And in real time. It lends itself to analysing the good and bad aspects of track design, an art massively underdone in racing.
“Sports have become a multibillion-dollar global business. Data analytics is no longer an option, it's a necessity,” claims Schroder. Very true.
A lesson for the inquiries?
20 years after it was privatised, Qantas has rebounded from recent struggles and is on line to post a $900 million profit. Yet, at the time, “the privatisation of Qantas under the Keating Labor government sparked fears the airline would no longer have the cash to invest in new aircraft and would not represent the national interest,” The Australian reported.
The experts differed. Brendan Lyon, chief executive of Infrastructure Partnerships Australia, said: “You would have to say the deregulation of the aviation sector and privatisation of Qantas has only been good for the consumer. They are substantially better off with domestic travel and it's cheaper. It really shows the government did the right thing.”
Peter Harbison, executive chairman of the Centre for Aviation, pointed out “Qantas had to be privatised, if it had been left any longer it would have been a total disaster. In the old days, it was about flying metal, but in the 90s it started becoming more about the customer. And you had to make a transition from a government department to a commercial enterprise.”
Qantas boss, Alan Joyce, said the cultural change that had occurred at Qantas since privatisation could not be underestimated. “I was on a flight recently and a cabin crew member who had been with the company since before privatisation, said to me, ‘passengers would get on board and we treated them as though they were lucky to be here, but that culture has gone now and we're a much better airline.'
Interestingly, Qantas once controlled half of all international travel to and from Australia. Today that share has reduced by two thirds yet it is able to run more efficiently and turn a profit in a highly competitive environment.
Racing has seen an almost identical change in market share but still cannot see its way clear to either growing its business or making a profit. To explain that, attention must go to the unchanging culture of the industry, which largely expects the world to provide for it, rather than the other way round. Racing's once trenchant opposition to the arrival of online bookmakers and Betfair might be equated to Qantas objecting to the use of jet aircraft. That would be unthinkable.
Your money at work.
And a few words on our previous article on how state administrators are performing. An anonymous reader threw in a one-liner, claiming only that “It's dogs running around in a circle. Time to get a new hobby.”
In round terms, the current spate of inquiries will cost well over $10 million, much of it funded directly or indirectly by punters and reduced prize money. You could double that if you take into account all the wasted time by staff of various sorts. Then you could double it again if you count up the cost of all the capital and income losses suffered by owners, trainers and offenders generally, some of whom were innocent, some not.
To say nothing about the prospect of shutting down or sharply reducing greyhound racing activity, as some would have it. The above $40-$50 million would then pale into insignificance. It almost would need an entry in the national budget.
Besides all that, the comment is insulting to the professionalism of the good people taking part in the sport. Nevertheless, it is a salutary reminder that the industry needs to better package its wares and so inform the public with some authority.
Thanks for replying.
In short, I still think you’re misguided.
As a practical person I am trying to make sense of what is an excellent debate on subjects which have been practically taboo in the past. Hugh presents an ethical framework to the discussion relating to intrinsic values and the debate continues with implicit and suppressed premises. Greyhound Racing has adopted an insular posture in regards to the general public over a long period. Greyhound Racing in the form of coursing was arguably the last blood sport allowable legally in the English speaking world. Hugh makes the point that all canines are a species that can be raced back to… Read more »
She should be the benchmark for trainers. I doubt that is the norm though.
19 Greyhounds have been left at the Hawkesbury Pound in the last few months alone, sadly all were emaciated.
She sounds fantastic. She has empathy, respect for the Dogs and professional. I wish she could be the benchmark. Sadly, 19 Greyhounds have been dumped at Hawkesbury Pound in the last coupe of Months, all emaciated.
If I may, it that sort of behaviour that Hugh was alluding to, that the general public might not get.
Dezzey Brown_Bear Which has little to do with Greyhound racing and everything to do with the human or humans that decided to “dump” their “emaciated” Greyhounds at the pound. While I can appreciate what you’re saying, the choice of words highlights my point, in that you use the word “dumped” instead of “surrendered”, then added “all emaciated”, which may well have been a correct observation but no context is provided other than to insinuate the worst possible. It is this type of innuendo that doesn’t help solve the problem other than to drive home the agenda of special interest groups who… Read more »
Brown_Bear Dezzey Hi Mr Bear, The industry will go on, no doubt about that. I am not militant nor a member of a minority group. I used to punt socially until a few years ago (alwayS the 8 and only a black dog). The wife and I wanted a dog and decided to get a rescue dog. We researched the best breed for us and lo and behold, it was the Greyhound. He’s great with the kids (not so much with cats) and we get stopped all the time to talk bout him. I like reading Bruce’s articles as they are… Read more »
Brown_Bear Hugh_ So you think the fact that many dogs are born only to be put down if they don’t perform is justifiable. The sport of greyhound racing is so valuable that this cost of life is worth paying. Can you explain why? What is it about greyhound racing that is so essential to society that it justifies this?
Brown_Bear Dezzey You draw analogies that simply aren’t analogous. People choose to accept a certain level of risk when they take to the roads in a car, that’s a choice. Additionally, it is only a tiny minority of people that cause serious accidents through bad behaviour while driving. Animals that are abused through the sport of greyhound racing have no choice. Proportion of animals that suffer or die is high. Travel by car serves a genuine practical purpose for many aspects of life. Greyhound racing does not. You keep taking things I say and stretching them to extremes or completely misapplying… Read more »
Hugh_ Brown_Bear Dezzey Assessments of intrinsic and instrumental values are in the eye of the beholder.My view is that there is considerable intrinsic and instrumental values in human activity with domestic animals including racing. If objective assessments need to be made on the above benefits then a lot more probative evidence needs to be put on the table. It is not an unreasonable to expect that administrators will perform at the level required of them of acting in the public interest. In 1991 there was plenty of evidence at the open senate inquiry of greyhound blooding and the ineffectual actions being taken… Read more »
John Tracey Hugh_ Brown_Bear Dezzey There’s always a level of subjectivity in judging the value of something, that’s true. However I think you’d have a hard time making a case for any sport having an intrinsic value (there are a few exceptions) since sports for the most part are completely arbitrary constructions to support some sort of competition and entertainment. Those end goals have value, but throwing a ball through a ring, carrying it over a line, sliding a large stone across the ice while frantically sweeping in front of it with a broom, etc, etc. do not. While people become invested in… Read more »
Hugh_ John Tracey Brown_Bear Dezzey My exposure to intrinsic values has been through the discussions of the value of human life relating to suicide. The concept relating to intrinsic and instrumental values as a gate way to further ethical theory is a struggle for me to grasp but I do agree with the StJames school of ethics that everyone should try and understand the ethical problems we all have to make individually from time to time. The discussions on ethics are endless by definition ethical considerations only occur if there is no clear desirable solution. I would argue that there is both intrinsic… Read more »
Hugh_ There seems that there is a large degree of irrationality and misinformation in recent responses to the industry. Objections are too often based on ‘gut feel’, without reference to facts, and without any actual exposure to the industry. This extends even to the Victorian Chief Veterinary Officer report which included statements such as “The Review did not get the sense that a significant proportion of industry participants understand, or have bought into, the importance of animal welfare.” It is relevant that the CVO did not include industry participants as contributors to the report. From my exposure to the ‘industry’, the overwhelming majority… Read more »
Kondoparinga Hugh_ Afternoon, I note with reference to your point about majority Hobby owners, that Saturday’s Telegraph (NSW) had a piece on a successful trainer. The point of the article was that happy dogs make successful dogs. It was quite similar to Brown Bear’s link to the Guardian about Dolores Ruth. The trainer in question said that she had a great puppy but no room to kennel it was full of ex-racers (a4) and an ex brood bitch. She does not destroy her dogs when their usefulness is over. The pup went to her friend to train and is in the Garton cup (sic)l. Also worth noting… Read more »
Kondoparinga Hugh_ Are you challenging the idea that the greyhound was bred through artificial selection from wolves? All domestic dogs are the same species, they are all descendent from wolves. I was probably flippant in describing the reason for which they were bread, as I assume they were originally used for hunting rather than racing. But they are still an artificial species in the sense that there was never a wild population of greyhounds that evolved without human intervention.
Dezzey Kondoparinga Hugh_ Adoption will help with the overbreeding problem, but I think it’s an insufficient solution. It’s also asking others to clean up the industry’s mess. I also think that while there may be anecdotes about people that treat their dogs really well and those dogs win races, that doesn’t demonstrate a causal link between happiness and race performance. Genetic variation means that from a litter of pups not all will be the fastest runners. The pursuit of fast dogs means that far more dogs will be bread than will actually go onto be winners.
There seems little doubt that origins of all dogs were wolves. It is indeterminate whether greyhounds developed through natural selection or were artificially bred. That they existed largely in the form they are today is indicative that they have not been ‘artificially’ bred; they have retained purity of form, temperament and innate propensity for speed over a period longer than any other breed. The more general point I make is that using extreme examples, attributing views to others that are offensive to the majority of industry participants, and using emotional arguments, does not provide a valid basis to achieve good outcomes.… Read more »
Kondoparinga Here is something on the theory of genetic distance. Agree with the thrust of what you are saying. People who adopt greyhounds should be rewarded through Greyhound Racing rather than companies who facilitate adoptions.
John Tracey Kondoparinga I’m not sure that link is relevant John, it’s discussing the genetic distance (number of similarities/dissimilarities in the genetic code) between dogs and both humans and chimps. Kondoparinga, I’d be interested in a source for this claim that it’s indeterminate whether greyhounds developed through natural selection or were artificially bred. I’ve never heard anything of that nature, and a quick scan of the literature suggests there is no such hypothesis with any supporting evidence. I would link you to articles where the genetics of greyhounds and other breeds have been phylogenetically analysed but unless you have database access… Read more »
John Tracey Kondoparinga Since I might be accused of copping out by not posting the evidence I refer to, here is a 2004 paper from the journal Science, they genetically analyse many breeds of dogs and assign them to a tree based on genetic similarity. Among all breeds some stand out as being more genetically distinct than others, and the greyhound is NOT one of those breeds. If the greyhound evolved independently many thousands of years ago it would most certainly stand out as being more genetically distinct from other breeds, but it does not. Here is the link http://www.sciencemag.org/content/304/5674/1160.full but unless… Read more »
Hugh_ John Tracey Kondoparinga I used the comment to make a point in respect of the absence of evidence for a statement made. So have included the following so you understand why I made the comment. “Using genetic data taken from modern breeds so far, it’s not yet possible to look back more than about 150 years ago, past the time when Victorians began establishing the tightly defined breeds we know today.” “For the previous 15,000 years or so, the genetic history of dogs is a “big blurred mess,” he said, explaining that while some selective breeding took place since dogs… Read more »
Kondoparinga Hugh_ John Tracey Neither of those quotes cast doubt on the fact that all the dog breeds were domesticated by humans. I found the article that quote is from and read it. He is saying that the lineage of dogs since domestication occurs is not clear, he is not suggesting that the fact that all dog breeds were domesticated by humans is in doubt, that is a given, and the article is written from that point of view. Here’s the link to the actual research article that Greger Larson was primary author on perhaps you should read it because you seem… Read more »
Hugh_ John Tracey Kondoparinga Thanks Hugh I have the article you are referring to , it caused quite a stir at the time particularly with the NCA who had advertised their organisation as The Sport of the Pharaohs ” only to find that genetically the greyhounds were probably herding dogs from Asia. I will test your assumptions with the researchers of the article and get back to you on it. In the end is this subject important in the scheme of things anyway, It feels a little like whistling Annie Laurie backwards through a keyhole, its clever but is it art” Anyway… Read more »
John Tracey Hugh_ Kondoparinga No John, I don’t think it’s overly important to the original discussion (though it is interesting) I just wasn’t willing to let an obviously false statement by Kondoparinga slide.
John Tracey Kondoparinga
Hi John, it is good to see some polite and informed debate in what can be an emotional topic. Would you mind clarifying “People who adopt greyhounds should be rewarded through Greyhound Racing rather than companies who facilitate adoptions” for me ?
Hugh_ John Tracey Kondoparinga The statement I made was that it is indeterminate whether greyhounds evolved from natural selection or were ‘artificially bred’ in the context of your statement that greyhounds were man-made animals designed to run around tracks for gambling purposes. Perhaps the issue on this is our respective understanding of ‘artificially bred’, as I probably would have stated “the extent to which” had I known this was to become an academic argument. Perhaps I could have focused more on the fact that circular tracks have only been around for a hundred years or so, and institutionalised gambling been around for… Read more »
Kondoparinga Hugh_ John Tracey Greyhounds did not evolve due to natural selection, period. Greyhounds were artificially bred, period. No matter the context, these statements are supported by the evidence, and statements to the contrary are not. Addtionally, the very evidence you first posted indicates that greyhounds hybridised with other species as recently as 150 years ago, so any idea that “purity of form” extends further into the past than that, are refuted by your own evidence. I appreciate that you probably don’t have a background in biology, much less evolution, so perhaps you simply misunderstand some of the terminology, so I’m sorry… Read more »
Dezzey John Tracey Kondoparinga I am influenced greatly by Animals Equality and Democracy written by Siobhan Osullivan (The Palgrave McMillan Animal Welfare Series) Extracts available on google) which states than animals are protected by their visibility. This explains to me why there is a constant focus by welfare groups on greyhounds which are extremely visible and a good source for attracting bequests and donations. A crisis has occurred where there has been a need for immediate action by the Administrator of GRNSW to address a serious branding problem in Greyhound Racing and he has chosen to raise a levy and as I… Read more »
John Tracey Thanks for clarifying John. In the short term, the proposal by the NSW Govt that re-homing groups be reimbursed for every dog adopted should remain until initiatives such you proposal are in place. The more greyhounds out in the general public as pets will lead to greater exposure and demand for the breed as pets (noting that they make a relatively low fuss pets generally speaking). I think it is important to note that these groups came into place, not through militancy, but a want to re-home the breed when there was no real re-homing options. I may… Read more »
Hugh_ Kondoparinga John Tracey You misrepresent my position by drawing assumptions that neither alluded to or agree with, such as suggesting the breed be put on a pedestal. Nor was I making statements of fact; just opinion. Reducing my position down to basics; it is hard to dispute that people have an affinity with the breed that has been evident over a long period, that the breed has an innate propensity for speed, and that there is a racing industry. It may be you don’t like the industry, and don’t care about the breed. But the practicality is that the industry won’t… Read more »
Dezzey John Tracey This is my part of my submission to the special commission of inquiry. 1.Thenext two items are provided to explain that animal welfare costs but it alsoadds to revenue. 2.TheSolicitors for GA forwarded the following statistics on racing and breedinggreyhounds to pray for sales tax exemptions on greyhounds. The figures did notcontain retired greyhounds who were regarded as outside the claim. Number of Dogs in Training 28,800 Greyhounds used for Breeding2,500 Greyhound pups bred each year andnot in racing 21,433. Total52,733 3.Thesestatistics were used as they were in the same period as the ACIL project on thescope of… Read more »
John Tracey Dezzey
Affordable pet insurance is huge factor in opening the “market” (as you put it).
For ten bucks a week my dog has k a year coverage.
Kondoparinga Hugh_ John Tracey When you talk about “purity of form” for “thousands of years” you are ascribing grandiose characteristics to the greyhound breed. You also happen to be ascribing fictional characteristics that are not supported by evidence. All I’m advocating is that we see greyhounds and greyhound racing for what it is, and not what it isn’t. I agree that a fact based approach is always best (hence I’m pulling you up on your falsehoods). But when it comes to certain issues, the facts don’t speak for themselves, there are subjective arguments to be made. One such example is that you… Read more »
Kondoparinga John Tracey I’ll also add, just to clarify my position, that if the welfare problems can be eliminated, such as wastage, if all the cast offs from the greyhound industry can be housed through adoption or other means, then I have no objection to the industry continuing. As I stated earlier I’m not against greyhound racing in principle, though I do think it lacks value, I’m just against animal welfare breaches.
I’m skeptical that these welfare issues can be solved. Time will tell.
Hugh_ Kondoparinga John Tracey Obviously I have presented my views poorly as they are resulting views I didn’t intend or ascribe to. So I’ll learn from that and move on. So getting to points on which perhaps there can be agreement. The controlling bodies don’t keep accurate records, so accurate statistics are not available. I take the view that any dog put down for ‘lack of racing ability’ is a practice that should stop. The problem is how to get there from where we are now. Other possible solutions might include 1. A starting point is accurate cradle to grave statistics. This requires a… Read more »
Kondoparinga Hugh_ John Tracey I think your reply above would have made a good submission to special commission of inquiry. I covered some of the points you have raised in my submission to the special inquiry but I am not sure whether the commissioner intends to publish the submissions. People are generally quoting from histories prepared by animal welfare interests and the publications generally come from a period where research was very manually intensive and a lot of assumptions don’t stand up today to scientific or historical research now available. The American Research contains a lot of studies in regards to debates… Read more »
Hugh_ Kondoparinga John Tracey The adoption rate for canines in pounds etc is close to 100% for pups and a much lower percentage for aged dogs. Greyhounds seem to arrive for disposal at an aged level. The market for Canine purchase/adoption for whole of life owners divide into two basic groups. 1. People who have to face the fact that they will outlive their companion dog. 2. People who fear that their companion will outlive them. 1. There needs to be rewards for as I have mentioned previously but also there need to be a scheme where whole of live adoptees who… Read more »
John Tracey Hugh_ Kondoparinga
I am agreeance with recent postings.
The group I received my hound from has a program called Sanctuary Hounds.
This is to encourage adoption of older dogs. If you take one of these dogs, the fee is waived and vet bills are covered.
There is also room to explore the use of them as therapy dogs for aged care, hospital visits and as in US they are used for special need children due to their quiet nature.
John Tracey Hugh_ Kondoparinga
My last post in this positive debate.
Attached is an article from the Guardian about “reading dogs” and the home page for an American initiative using animals for therapy. Food for thought when considering post racing for the hounds.
Added to other welfare and integrity driven suggestions in previous posts, imagine the Governing bodies sponsoring/running such activities? It would be incredibly positive for all concerned and ensure a bright future.