Amidst all the noise we hear today about greyhound racing a point to remember is that self-described tree-huggers and Greens generally are very much in the minority. Numbers range between 1% and 10% of the population. That is true whether it’s dogs, horses or in parliament. That does not mean they are wrong, although often they are.
What it does mean is that they can shout from the rooftops but they will not get very far, for two main reasons.
First, they don’t have to bother much about the real world because they will never be in a position of power, They may exert a little influence here and there but normally they will be unable to put their words into practice. The majority of people will say that’s just as well. Such is democracy.
Second, rarely do they offer genuine or usable counter suggestions about how to run that world. A classic example would be their preference for seemingly unlimited numbers of asylum seekers – say 10,000, 50,000, 100,000 or more every year – regardless of the huge cost that would impose on the tax-paying community, the risks to national security or the difficulty of installing all the practical means of housing and employing them.
In the greyhound context, highlighting illegal acts is not their main target, although, amongst a few valid points, many of their followers still resort to lies, abusive language and gross exaggeration. The underlying problem is that they want to ban racing altogether, as regularly expounded by discredited NSW Greens MLC John Kaye and his tame PR person, Natalie O’Brien of the Sydney Morning Herald, and on numerous posters and banners around the country.
Comments from members of overseas organisations have an equally strong bias, particularly from the USA where conditions are vastly different to those in Australia. The two cannot be compared.
Consequently, they will get a poor return for all the energy put into their tactics. They will not stop greyhound or horse racing. It is never going to happen. In fact, at the moment, betting volumes are higher than I have seen for the last couple of years.
What they should be concentrating on, as this column tries to do, is to make racing better and safer. Already they have had some success with the restrictions placed on the use of whips, something which much of the general population can understand. But claims that “greyhounds are forced to race” or “stop government subsidies to racing” are not only ridiculous but guaranteed to reduce support from people in the street. It destroys the protesters’ credibility.
Frankly, they should be happy to note that the recent incidents have (quite correctly) raised a storm of protest and extreme reactions from governments – ie sackings and suspensions.
The trick now is to follow up whatever progress is being made – “keeping the bastards honest” – and to make sure that an industry which has had its head in the sand smartens up. Only 21st century standards will do.
The snowball has started rolling, so get behind it.
Finally, here’s a tip. Animal species which have done best are those where humans have placed a high value on their worth. Whale population growth has been a spectacular example. Greyhounds have survived and prospered for the same reason over hundreds or even thousands of years. All because they like chasing. It’s what they do.
On the other hand
It is a no-brainer that greyhound administrations have fallen down on the job by their failure to identify and correct widespread abuses of the system. The details will follow when all the investigative teams report back in coming months.
However, those shortcomings have been accompanied by a lack of sufficient attention to keeping the public informed and interested in the sport of greyhound racing. Nine times out of ten, all the public learns is what is bad about the industry, never the good bits. Unfortunately, the industry has a habit of preaching only to the converted, so that outcome is hardly surprising.
Unjustly, this has placed the greyhound breed itself in a defensive position. That’s obviously silly when the fault invariably lies with its masters, but it is a problem that has to be addressed. It is a simple matter to throw out the people doing the nasty things, but not so easy to present the positive case for the greyhound itself.
Industry or brand images do not happen by themselves. Rather they are created by the products’ owners. It was therefore interesting to read comments by a guru on social and demographic matters, Bernard Salt in The Australian (March 26).
“What endures is brand. However, I think there is a large and potentially expandable segment of the market that wants an ongoing relationship with brand. What business wants for its products — and what I suspect many consumers also want — is a meaningful and ongoing relationship.
Consumer choice can be swift and brutal. The deep connection and affection that some consumers feel for some brands is counterbalanced by indifference to others. The brands that endure best are those that are adaptable and that invest in an emotional connection with a loyal consumer base.”
That’s a clear message. Greyhound racing does not really have a “brand”. More likely it is seen just as a branch of the betting sector, to be treated as no more than a mobile poker machine.
Greyhound bosses must build that “emotional connection” or continue to suffer the consequences.