The daggers are being thrown in every possible direction within the NSW Greyhound Racing Industry at present. With the upcoming pressure of the Parliamentary Inquiry, it seems everyone is trying to find someone to blame for the state of the sport.
The Greyhound Action Group NSW (GAG) was the driving force behind the inquiry which was moved recently by Greens MP, John Kaye.
The inquiry is set to target the binding inter-code agreement that dictates prize money distribution between the three racing codes and the alleged mismanagement by the controlling body of Greyhound Racing in the state, Greyhound Racing New South Wales (GRNSW).
GRNSW were contacted for their perspective on the upcoming inquiry. The one thing it seems that everyone can agree on, including GRNSW, is that the inter-code agreement needs to be amended for the financial longevity and sustainability of the industry. However, GRNSW feel that this should be the primary focus rather than tackling the allegations of mismanagement suggested by the GAG as well as the welfare scandals insinuated by Kaye.
GRNSW Chief Executive Brent Hogan stated the following,
“As previously mentioned, GRNSW believes that the main focus of the parliamentary inquiry should be on the TAB funding model”
“Reforming the current TAB funding model is critical to the economic viability of the sport in NSW as the current arrangements between thoroughbred, harness and greyhound racing do not reward efficiency, innovation or growth”
“The fixed percentage structure of allocating TAB distributions among the racing codes may have been sustainable in the context of the stable and protected industry that existed 15 years ago, but the forces of competition, combined with the advancement of technology and the burgeoning national market, have rendered these arrangements a threat to the racing industry as a whole”.
With the inquiry also focusing on animal welfare, GRNSW are concerned about the negative implications that this may have on the image of the industry.
“Unfortunately in the days since the inquiry was launched we have had no mention of the TAB funding model and instead seen headlines in mainstream news services such as “Greyhounds Killed, Starved, Drugged: MP” (news.com.au 28/8/13), “Greyhound Racing Riddled with Drugs” (The Australian, 29/8/13, page 2), “Greyhounds Scandals Inquiry” (Daily Telegraph, 29/8/13, page 20)”
“These damaging headlines followed Dr Kaye issuing a press release containing scurrilous and baseless claims about the integrity of the sport and those who participate in it together with the standards of animal welfare in the sport”.
“Allegations made without any fact, such as those made by Dr Kaye, will do little to help the industry and will only tarnish the reputation of the greyhound racing industry in NSW as well as all the participants that take part in this great sport”.
With GRNSW obviously concerned that the image of the industry may be tarnished throughout the inquiry, it is worth mentioning an allegation brought forward by the GAG in the article, Greyhound Action Group Respond to Parliamentary Inquiry. In the article, GAG President Dennis Carl claimed that Mr Hogan released a false figure regarding the number of greyhounds destroyed each year (3,000) on National Television.
When asked for comment on this, no response from GRNSW was forthcoming. With so much speculation and a plethora of shifty allegations flying around, it is peculiar that GRNSW did not respond. If they are at all concerned about the image of the industry and any false accusations that are being made, one would think that they would be anxious to clear this matter up, regardless of whether the figure was right or wrong. By ignoring the issue, it does not make it go away. Rather it adds to the growing concerns that GRNSW is not communicating with participants and is leaving them in the dark on the important topics facing the industry. When asked for the correct figure, again, GRNSW did not respond.
Remaining on the welfare issue, Kaye has highlighted to the GAG that his welfare plight will be mainly targeted at professional trainers, rather than hobby trainers. This is rather bamboozling, as one would think that the welfare standards would be uniform across the board. GRNSW did in fact respond to this issue
“Another concern GRNSW has is the fact that some participants are trying to create division within the industry by seemingly trying to pit so-called ‘hobby trainers’ against so-called ‘professional trainers’”.
“The claim made by this small group of participants is once again based on no facts or supported by any evidence”
“GRNSW has a zero tolerance for trainers who do not meet our animal welfare standards, no matter what the size of their operation is. To suggest that larger trainers have to meet lesser standards compared to those imposed on hobby trainers is ridiculous”
“Any trainer found ending the life of a greyhound in an inhumane manner or mistreating greyhounds in their care is not welcome in our sport. They would not only be violating the rules of greyhound racing and our code of practice, but would also be committing a criminal offence under the NSW Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act”.
GRNSW went on to elaborate on their approach to animal welfare initiatives
“Looking to the future, GRNSW is committed to improving the welfare of greyhounds in NSW through a raft of reforms”
“Among the reforms is the establishment of the GRNSW Greyhound Welfare and Veterinary Services Unit which employs four full-time veterinary surgeons and a qualified animal behaviourist whose primary responsibility is to oversee the welfare of greyhounds transitioning to life as a pet”
“This financial year GRNSW will invest $1.3 million on greyhound welfare initiatives. This includes funding for the establishment of a new Education and Support Unit to help drive welfare improvements in the greyhound racing industry”
“The unit will build on the current pilot education program – Certificate II in Greyhound Racing – which is being run by GRNSW, Hunter TAFE and the NSW Department of Education and Communities”
“In addition, GRNSW is working with Greyhounds Australasia and the other State bodies to draft national welfare guidelines”
“This parliamentary inquiry has reinforced the fact that the welfare of greyhounds is a very serious issue for the wider community and as a result GRNSW is committed to announcing further welfare initiatives in the coming months.”
With much of the focus of the upcoming inquiry on GRNSW there is no doubt that they will be feeling the pressure. Despite taking positive steps forward in regards to welfare issues, many participants are still becoming disillusioned by the governance and management of the controlling body. Whether you agree with the upcoming Parliamentary Inquiry or not, there is a large percentage of the industry that feels as if it is time that the actions of GRNSW are reviewed. Perhaps nothing will change dramatically within GRNSW as a result of the Inquiry however; it may assist to restore faith in the organisation for those who feel that the industry has lost its ways.