When Mike Baird officially announced the backflip at noon today, collective cheers could be heard from within the industry. But just how loud should we be cheering?
It’s still unknown precisely what the future of greyhound racing within New South Wales will look like.
Several leading news sources have tossed around ideas of track closures, less racing and hefty welfare bonds for every pup born. Some have even detailed the guarantees and commitments put forward by the Greyhound Racing Industry Alliance – one of which is a breeding program which would limit the amount of pups bred per year to 2,000.
The Alliance guaranteed this figure to the government when trying to negotiate a way out of the ban back in August. Credit where credit is due, they had a big hand in overturning the ban, but should the industry really be crumpling at the knees so easily?
Sure, it’s great we have our sport back, however, the industry also had Mike Baird and his government in a figurative chokehold – so why are we compromising so much, so soon?
Whilst the industry needs to make improvements, the 15 months prior to the ban had seen sweeping reform which halved the numbers of litters bred each year, reduced the amount of racetrack injuries and ensured more greyhounds were given the chance to live full, happy lives post-racing.
A representative from the Alliance told Australian Racing Greyhound today that the breeding restrictions are not locked in, no breeding bond is in place and no tracks are, at this stage, set to close.
This can be interpreted as a direct contradiction to some of the wording in Baird’s press conference today. An interesting point in itself.
The spokesperson said the new oversight body set to reform the industry would be looking at recommendations two through to 80, including the intercode agreement, in order to draw up a framework for the regulatory structure and future governance of the industry.
In other words, nothing is set in stone.
I think someone forgot to tell this to Mike Baird before his announcement today and it’s a shame because there are better ways to fix the industry than what has been thrown around in news reports today.
While we must look after our animals as the number one priority, lets not compromise the essence of greyhound racing when we have finally received a realistic chance to improve the sport for the better.
Lets not get so caught up in the excitement of having the ban tossed out that we sign into something which could result in the death of the sport down the track.
If our source from the Alliance is correct and the other recommendations from the McHugh report are set to be discussed by the new oversight body, lets ensure first and foremost that all revenue and taxation under the intercode and the tax parity agreements are adjusted to give greyhound racing its fair share.
This is not a move to profit trainers, it is something which would ensure the industry becomes a world leader in animal welfare, integrity and regulation. Without getting our slice of what we are entitled to, the industry once again becomes a target and a ticking time bomb whilst the thoroughbred industry booms off our revenue.
Secondly, lets upgrade our tracks to ensure better racing, but also to provide facilities for trainers and their greyhounds so that the health and fitness of every greyhound is kept at an optimum level.
Sure, put in place some breeding restrictions to make sure the industry can cope with the welfare of the amount of dogs born into it – but make sure they are also realistic to keep up with the demands of racing.
Hand in hand with this, we need a grading system which caters for every greyhound physically and mentally able to race. Who cares if your dog can run 22 or 25 seconds – they are born to run (no matter how fast they are) and by providing greater opportunities on the track, we are in turn improving animal welfare outcomes by ensuring more dogs make it to the track.
Also on the cards is a separation of the commercial and regulatory functions of the governing body. While this is a positive, let’s make sure we get some people at the top who actually give a damn about the industry. Enough of these bureaucrats with dreams of one day becoming a politician, let’s get someone in there with some ticker who wants to see the greyhound industry thrive.
So friends, of course let’s celebrate today, we have won the first round of the David and Goliath battle of Australian politics, but, just remember, the war is certainly not over yet.