How universities can help greyhound racing

IT is a bit confusing. GRV, in conjunction with the vet faculty at the University of Melbourne, has just finalised a study of the impact of testosterone in greyhounds. It will allow assessments of natural and artificial quantities, thereby checking if anyone is pushing the boundaries. So far, so good.

However, historically, it has been Greyhounds Australasia which has conducted these sorts of investigations and later adjusted its list of banned substances as necessary. All states use that information but sometimes add rules of their own. Apparently GRV found it necessary to follow its own route this time.

Which brings me back to a previous experience. A few years ago I had a small involvement with the vet faculty at Sydney University – the country’s biggest and oldest. On one matter I was giving a hand to a graduate student for a project and separately I had noticed that final year students each had to organise a project covering a domestic animal. Their choices included a wide range of dogs but no-one had selected the greyhound. Not one.

I wrote to GRNSW at the time, suggesting it offer a small prize for anything involving greyhounds and so promote interest in the breed. In the event, it did not bother to reply. Nor did it do anything.

Noting also that faculty boss Professor McCreevy and his team had been involved with the AJC (as it was then) in running a survey of whip use on horses, I surmised that the faculty was interested in getting involved with outside projects and made contact with him. To cut a long story short, we both thought that several greyhound subjects would be worth following up and so I passed this on to GAL for its handling and support.

It then turned out that on such matters GAL had a fixed policy of dealing only with the greyhound section of the Australian Veterinary Association and no-one else. It rejected the Sydney University option out of hand, without bothering to check it out. Now, however helpful the AVA were or are, it seemed strange that the industry would therefore ignore the potential exposure in another prominent organisation – for both technical and publicity reasons. But knock it back they did. Neither I nor Professor McCreevy was impressed.

Hence the surprise that GRV has been beavering away on its own. Not just on this matter but also on a study into hock injuries, which we hope to hear about in due course. And who knows what else is happening.

Here is yet another example of the disjointed way that the industry is run. Whatever GRV’s reasons – and they may be good ones – it is an indictment of the industry’s failure to maximise the benefits available in keeping in touch with every university’s veterinary department and to coordinate any specific efforts.

In passing, it is worth noting two points: GRV has form in that last year it conducted public surveys of attitudes to greyhound racing but refused to release the results and, second, a significant reason for Queensland and the industry getting into such a bind over live baiting was RQ’s failure to properly handle information originally provided by Animals Australia. It seems we have an inbuilt aversion to anything happening off the beaten track or to sharing valuable information.

I should add that AVA’s website is notable for its lack of information unless you are a member and can access the secret files.

The beating heart of greyhound racing

Oh dear. While it’s marvellous to see our articles encouraging some active debate (of which there is far too little these days) I have been extensively verballed by a reader to suit his arguments and underlying philosophies. Not for the first time, of course, but I wish they would either (a) stay on topic or (b) study everything I have written. In a single article it is hardly practical to outline an entire collection of my views or analyses.

They key issue in “Hugh’s” view is that greyhound racing is “an activity that has no intrinsic value” and therefore should be stopped because it cannot be conducted without causing welfare problems – ie it harms some dogs.

Using that logic, horse racing must get the chop as well. But that’s just the most obvious target. In practice, few human activities could get a pass mark, and certainly none where competition is involved (which is most things). Football, cricket, netball and tennis would all have to go. The theory also ignores the process of natural selection in the wild – ie survival of the fittest. Indeed, no animal, including humans, would be what they are without an element of competition.

It then gets back to what another reader pointed out (correctly) – that the issue is more about how humans form their attitudes to and their partnerships with animals. Circuses, for example, are now heavily circumscribed in their activities as a result of public opinion. Killing whales is banned in some countries but exploited commercially in others. Cats are encouraged because they make nice pets yet they cause untold damage to other species (although governments are currently starting to attack that problem). Perversely, you are not allowed to shoot crocodiles even though they are of no value to the ecology and are germ-laden killers.

In the greyhound case – or that of any hound type – man and dog have had a close and carefully structured relationship for millennia, often at the highest level of society. History suggests that the dogs enjoyed that association, and still do.

Mechanical hare racing is a very recent phenomenon but it has served one special purpose: it has almost certainly sustained the continuation of the breed, as well as its general purity (contrary arguments notwithstanding). Its arrival also saw the elimination of live hare coursing, again as a function of changing community standards.

In total, as with any other aspect of society, greyhound racing is not perfect but a great many measures are in train in an effort to achieve that perfection.

As for the comments about breeding – I have never promoted any “increase”, as claimed, but have simply evaluated what is happening on that scene. However, I have frequently encouraged administrators to be more imaginative about providing opportunities for aging or less competitive dogs. Perhaps the increased interest in veteran’s races is an example.

The so-called “wastage” is certainly a problematic issue, as it is with any other animal known to mankind, from cats to elephants to lions and tigers, most of which have some sort of commercial value in one way or another. There is nothing special about greyhounds, except that they are generally far better cared for than the vast majority of animals, all because humans place a high value on them. That worth is by far the major reason for their survival.

Finally, there is one other general theme in the articles I have written. My view is that on a number of counts greyhound racing can be better run than it is today, and I try to suggest how. Every move from governments, authorities, participants and fans should be directed to that end. And hopefully from readers like “Hugh” as well.

Music to the ears

It turns out that there is actually some value in the ABC after all. A Catalyst program run the other day tested the reaction of a variety of dogs to different sorts of music.

Rock causes them to make a big noise. Heavy metal sends them off the planet. But slow classical music sees them all squat down and listen quietly. I recall that Henry in the Pie in the Sky TV series had similar good results with his laying hens.

There is a lesson here for kennels everywhere, including at racetracks. It might work wonders for the odd dog, especially the yelper drawn in a late race.

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differentview
differentview
5 years ago

20 years ago it was found that Jazz music was the music that the dogs seemed to like best.
Jees Bruce keep up with the times ha

MarionPurnell
MarionPurnell
5 years ago

I’m interested in the term you like to place in inverted commas and describe as problematic:  – ‘wastage’, ie, what to do with the hundreds of dogs that are no longer economically useful to the greyhound racing industry, and can’t, due to numbers, all be adopted as pets. Many animal species are killed in the prime of their lives simply because its deemed useful in some way by the human species to do so. Double standards are rife. Some animals are generally seen as more expendable than others, for example, those used in food production such as chickens, sheep, cattle,… Read more »

John Tracey
John Tracey
5 years ago

Bruce I contacted the NSW representative on Greyhounds Australasia when the regulatory board was combined with greyhounds and harness and asked him why GA was using a special interest group of the AVA as a regulatory authority when NSW had previously removed a regulatory board on the grounds that practicing greyhound vets had a potential conflict of interest in dealing with regulatory matters. The answer was that the regulatory board of the greyhounds/harness believed that the vets association was also the regulatory vet registration board.(which is not correct) I rang delegates from the other states and they were also of… Read more »

John Tracey
John Tracey
5 years ago
Hugh_
Hugh_
5 years ago

I’m heartened to see that you actually consider contrary opinions and respond to them.  I still disagree with some of what you say though.  Obviously I am against horse racing circuses and other industries that exploit animals for entertainment.  But I already addressed the analogy to humans competing in sport as that was raised by another reader.  The key difference is choice.  Greyhounds don’t get the choice to opt out, they perform, or they die, or if they’re lucky they get adopted.  It’s not the same.  It’s not even remotely the same.  Who’s forcing someone to play football?  Who?  Come… Read more »

differentview
differentview
5 years ago

20 years ago it was found that Jazz music was the music that the dogs seemed to like best.

Jees Bruce keep up with the times ha

MarionPurnell
MarionPurnell
5 years ago

I’minterested in the term you like to place in inverted commas anddescribe as problematic:  – ‘wastage’, ie, what to do with the hundredsof dogs that are no longer economically useful to the greyhoundracing industry, and can’t, due to numbers, all be adopted as pets. Manyanimal species are killed in the prime of their lives simply becauseits deemed useful in some way by the human species to do so. Doublestandards are rife. Some animals are generally seen as moreexpendable than others, for example, those used in food productionsuch as chickens, sheep, cattle, and those that are seen as pestssuch as rats… Read more »

John Tracey
John Tracey
5 years ago

Bruce I contacted the NSW representative on Greyhounds Australasia when the regulatory board was combined with greyhounds and harness and asked him why GA was using a special interest group of the AVA as a regulatory authority when NSW had previously removed a regulatory board on the grounds that practicing greyhound vets had a potential conflict of interest in dealing with regulatory matters. The answer was that the regulatory board of the greyhounds/harness believed that the vets association was also the regulatory vet registration board.(which is not correct) I rang delegates from the other states and they were also of… Read more »

John Tracey
John Tracey
5 years ago

Working Dog Alliance report now available. (good read)

http://www.thedogs.com.au/Uploads/Review and Assessment of Best Practice.pdf 

Hugh_
Hugh_
5 years ago

I’m heartened to see that you actually consider contrary opinions and respond to them.  I still disagree with some of what you say though.  Obviously I am against horse racing circuses and other industries that exploit animals for entertainment.  But I already addressed the analogy to humans competing in sport as that was raised by another reader.  The key difference is choice.  Greyhounds don’t get the choice to opt out, they perform, or they die, or if they’re lucky they get adopted.  It’s not the same.  It’s not even remotely the same.  Who’s forcing someone to play football?  Who?  Come… Read more »