The clean reputation of the Companions And Pets Party among all the nasty pre-election mudslinging might actually cost them votes at the ballot box.
This is the opinion of champion trainer and CAP director Robert Britton, who reflected on the harsh reality facing his peers ahead of Victoria's state election on Saturday.
Britton has revealed to Australian Racing Greyhound that his party was approached by “election whisperer” Glenn Druery to join his “cash-for-seats” cartel.
“But we declined his offer,” he said.
And because of this moral stance, CAP sources believe their political ambitions will suffer as they will take a hit in voter preferences.
It also means the CAP has conceded defeat on this occasion, and instead its strategy will be to try and block the Animal Justice Party from obtaining power through preferencing the major political parties of Victoria.
Effectively, it's an attempt to buckle the controversial Druery system and slowly gain ground in what has been a vicious, personal and unrelenting battle for the hearts and minds of the public.
Adding to the Druery drama was an extraordinary public stoush between the vote fixer and the Animal Justice Party, which recently played out on Twitter.
The AJP – arch nemesis of the Companions And Pets Party – last week sensationally switched its preferences in the Victorian Upper House at the last minute after negotiating with Druery for months.
It means parties that worked with Druery will preference the AJP, while the AJP will not preference them in return and instead look towards parties like the Greens, Reason, Legalise Cannabis and the Victorian Socialists.
In a nutshell, this meant doing a deal with the devil and then stabbing the devil in the back.
And those parties who originally had AJP preferences sewn up are believed to be incensed at the AJP's actions, with a possible class action to follow.
Last week, Druery and the AJP engaged in a public stoush on Twitter, with the AJP's official Victorian account slamming the “Druery cabal”.
Druery hit back by repeatedly claiming Ben Schultz – the AJP's state election manager – lied.
The AJP said their new preferences were being directed towards parties that “actually want to make the world a little bit less sh**.”
It's certainly not a good look for the AJP, a group which has continually lobbied for the end of greyhound racing.
And Britton has slammed the AJP for this pre-election behaviour.
“It doesn't surprise me they are so radical,” he told Australian Racing Greyhound.
“It's all smoke-and-mirrors and they're not who they're portraying themselves to be.
“They are (a socialist party). And I didn't realise until three or four months ago when I really started to look into them – if you look at their polices, some of them are just cut-and-paste from extremist parties from overseas.
“It's absolute cut and paste – there's not even a word changed. They are an extremist party.
“They want to get rid of all animal agriculture. They want to put a tax on all meat products.
“All sorts of things like that. So they're really a vegan extremist party that are using pets (as a political tool).”
Under an ‘End Greyhound Racing' header on the Animal Justice Party's website, it states the following:
“In Victoria, gentle, docile greyhounds are being treated as nothing more than commodities to create gambling profits,” the statement says.
“There's no denying that racing dogs die distressed, confused, panicked and in pain. It's a brutal industry where the losers are the dogs – and they pay with their lives.”
Britton – a level-headed trainer with years of success in the greyhound racing industry – has kept the Companions And Pets Party away from the political chaos which has engulfed Victoria leading up to Saturday's vote.
And despite the body blows the CAP has copped so early in its existence, he said his party's core values – supporting an individual's rights to own an animal and that person's desire to pursue a chosen activity with that animal – have quickly been embraced by thousands of people.
“We've got our message out there to probably 1000 horse trainers,” he said.
“We've got a lot of horse trainers now involved.
“On (Racing And Sport) 927, we'll have 75 ads on Wednesday and they'll go right through Victoria.
“So we're right up there with the big boys as far as getting our word out there.”
But fellow Lara star trainer Brendan Pursell said he wished more could have been done from the likes of Greyhound Racing Victoria and its clubs to help CAP's message reach a larger number of people involved in the industry.
“It needs to get out more in the racing industry,” he said.
“It's not right.
“I know some harness people and they're talking about it – it's just hard to get it out there.
“It would be better if the industry was doing more of it.”
Pursell lamented CAP's lack of visibility when, if it had GRV's support, the party's message could have been a lot more visible at greyhound tracks throughout the state.
“It'd be nice if we saw flyers at The Meadows. There should be signs there,” he said.
“Some people don't know because they're not on social media often and they're not picking it up.
“People are only just learning we're not against greyhound racing like the Animal Justice Party, and then they're all for us.”
As well as the controversy the Animal Justice Party found itself in with Druery last week, the organisation has pitted itself against responsible greyhound trainers and breeders all over Australia.
The CAP Party is ready for the fight, but it might be outnumbered.
“The Animal Justice Party is actively seeking to remove the property status of animals, making it illegal to buy, sell or own them,” CAP chairperson John Hutchison said.
“The Animal Justice Party thinks owners make animals act against their own free will.
“They want to stop you protecting your pet by stopping you using a collar or lead when you walk them.
“Or stop you putting a halter on a horse, or keeping it in a secure paddock.
“Other activities that could be considered as not allowing an animal to act on its own free will could include riding for the disabled programs, assistance/therapy animals, pony clubs or drug detection dogs.”
Britton asked CAP voters to stay patient and think about the long-term picture four years from now, his party only being officially registered six weeks ago.
“Over four years I think we'll make huge inroads. We'll have time to actually show what we're about,” he said.
“We haven't really had time to do that this time around.
“The extremists have had 10 years start on us with their propaganda, and we plan to right this and balance the argument.”
Last month – with CAP in its early stages – Britton told this publication that a vast majority of fellow conditioners treated their greyhounds with the utmost respect.
He believes the rogue trainers – in a minority – have been dealt with, and will continue to be dealt with.
This is why he is so passionate about fighting the way his industry is portrayed by anti-racing activist groups such as the Animal Justice Party.
“The Animal Justice People puts out fluffy little photos of pets and people vote for them,” Britton said.
“This year they got rid of carriage horses (in Melbourne) and it was all to do with the Animal Justice Party.
“They're just extremists and we've got to expose that.”