Greyhounds Australasia – A Lost Cause

The infamous 2015 image of Grey2k’s Carey Theil meeting with Greyhounds Australasia’s Scott Parker where Grey2K claimed “industry executives in Australia are fully aware that commercial dog racing is out of step with mainstream values on animal welfare”.

The comment below is sharp but necessary as the greyhound industry faces a fogbound future, largely due to its pointless parochialism and the moral corruption engendered by an antiquated and often incompetent Greyhounds Australasia (GA) organisation.

The language has been toned down out of consideration – not for my fortunes as my dash is nearly done – but for the publisher who might otherwise face legal challenges. So I just stuck to the facts. But you get my drift.

In its own words, GA sees its purpose as “to lead and facilitate best practice” in building community confidence, driving national uniformity, supporting sustainable growth, facilitating innovation, and improving member and participant services, according to its current strategic plan – now half way through.

It’s achieving none of those things. Indeed, its form shows it is doing the opposite.

GA’s incompetent performance over the last decade can be highlighted by its clumsy contribution to the post-live baiting debate via a so-called “confidential” memo sent to state CEOs and then publicised first in the McHugh Commission in NSW (which obtained it from the then- of GRNSW). Notably …

  • It allowed McHugh, politicians, media and anti-greyhound groups to wrongly assume that over 12,000 greyhounds were euthanised each year – simply because of the poor wording used in the memo. The code has been thumped on this count ever since. In fact, those numbers were due to nothing more than clerical shortcomings in the system. That’s bad but not a hanging offense. GA has never issued a fuller explanation.
  • Worse, in a knee-jerk reaction, GA called for a one third cut in races in order to respond to claims of over-breeding by incompetent official reviewers in three states. In fact, breeding had been on a downward trend for over a decade, and then soon collapsed – by over half – without any regulatory intervention as the live baiting publicity hit home. In any event, such a change would have decimated the industry as we know it and thrown thousands of people out of work. In fact, GA had no cause to work up such a proposal and it beggars belief that any state (especially the small ones) would support such a dramatic and irresponsible move. Maybe they were not asked?

This then opened Pandora’s Box.

  • Further, it led to calls by the NSW Premier and others to institute breeding quotas and puppy taxes in a misguided attempt to reduce euthanasia amongst the local population. The fact that both measures were ill-researched and almost certainly illegal and discriminatory did not attract any counter arguments from GA. Fortunately, both have been bypassed for the moment although the puppy tax (bond) is theoretically still on the books.
  • Rather, and to the contrary, GA then commissioned a consultant to investigate and recommend how best to establish state by state breeding quotas in order to keep governments happy. GA put in no effort to address the need, purpose or outcome of this process. In fact, GA should have rejected the concept of quotas out of hand as inappropriate, argumentative and illogical – recognising that breeding is by nature a national subject and certainly not confined to any one state. No consultant’s report has ever been sighted so money was wasted anyway.
  • Later on, GA dreamed up a need to study why greyhounds could not race more often (apparently intending to run more races with fewer dogs) and commissioned an outside consultant to come up with answers. This inane effort was apparently based on the spurious assumption that the existing dog population could be better utilised and therefore ensure that fewer dogs would be candidates for euthanasia. Further assumptions would be that existing trainers did not know how to maximise the earning capacity of their charges and that higher frequency racing did not impact on the dogs’ welfare. (Note that Victorian stewards, from a welfare viewpoint, are now regularly querying some trainers’ policies of over-racing their dogs. Existing racing rules are not adequate to cover these practices). In fact, GA’s nonsensical approach was never going to help decision-making and, as a result, no report was ever sighted. More money wasted.

Moving on to other matters …

  • GA’s then-CEO managed to spend time with a senior official from the anti-racing group Grey2K visiting from America. He also got himself photographed with him, thereby providing a publicity to someone whose life is dedicated to eliminating greyhound racing from the community (and did so in one USA state, with others also targeted at the moment). In fact, GA should have noticed that this group’s sole purpose in life is to eliminate racing in all animal codes. In addition, the official visitor had been peremptorily thrown off a New Zealand racecourse when her identity became known. (New Zealand is actually a full member of the GA organisation).
  • GA instituted rules to limit the presence of and in racing greyhounds, based only on a single check which did no more than test how much each of a few hundred dogs had in their system. The principle (of bans) was based on a similar debatable practice in thoroughbred racing. In fact, no reasonable proof has been offered that these everyday compounds help or hinder a racing greyhound. A group of well-qualified Queensland veterinarians, amongst other scientists, has written to all racing authorities calling for the elimination of any restriction or penalties. It has also been pointed out that existing testing techniques are highly dubious. GA ignored these alternative views.
  • Since 2015 neither GA nor anyone else has produced national statistics to keep us abreast of how we are doing (bar a single list of breeding services hidden at the end of the Stud Book). Individual state figures vary in style and content so cannot be joined easily. In fact, “Rafferty’s Rules” apply, contrary to GA’s purported attempt to “drive national uniformity”.
  • A few years back I was appalled at the content shown on Wikipedia under the Australian Greyhound Racing name, which had been clearly ambushed by anti-racing types. Given its position I referred it to GA as the only logical authority to make corrections. In fact, nothing has happened, no changes have been made. Today the entry contains all the crook McHugh figures, quotes “widespread” live baiting, claims that GWIC is “taxpayer funded”, that only eight countries sponsor greyhound racing, etc, etc. In fact, according to Grey2K itself, there are seven countries which conduct commercial racing and fourteen more which allow dog racing without wagering.
  • I have several times sent emails to GA seeking information on topical matters. This correspondence has never been answered or even acknowledged. (This may be a Victorian habit as my experience with GRV is almost as bad and GA is domiciled close by. The Victorian GOBTA seems to have similar problems).

In short, GA has done little to validate its own charter and has manifestly caused damage to the industry through its own actions. As structured today, it is not up to the task of representing the industry or operating in it and so requires radical change. Certainly, a working national body, with suitable power, would be a good thing to have but this one does not cut the mustard.

Who are those guys?

Use of the term Greyhounds Australasia in this paper needs careful interpretation. It may refer to GA’s top officials, to all in the GA organisation, or to its members individually or as a whole. A reader would have little idea either way. That’s a key part of the problem.

GA’s members comprise one Director each from eight states and territories and New Zealand (the has been recently deleted), eight alternate Directors and five sub-committees, each of which also has eight directors. Total = 56 plus GA staff. They meet usually on a quarterly basis, involving considerable expense for travel and accommodation. What they decide to do is rarely published. Agendas and minutes are a secret.

GA itself has no real power except for clerical matters so can only draft a rule or decision, send it to each state, then wait for those states to approve it or not. If they do not approve, nothing happens. In any event, commercial matters are not within its remit and are solely the responsibility of each state. GA writes the national Racing Rules but each of the states has its own Local Rules which often clash with the national ones, but the Local ones take priority.

It’s worth noting that GA has recently rewritten its website but has done no more than repeat what it had on it before with the addition of its 2020/2022 Strategic Plan and some waffly charts. It also has a “News” section but it is empty. In previous versions it had little news in it anyway and it was always badly out of date.

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