AS I drove back through New South Wales last Friday morning it was obvious to me that great hinterland outside the Sydney CBD has been a long neglected part of the state. The backblock roads of the Hunter Valley are gradually returning to their wild and virginal state where the tarmacadam looks like crazy paving and the water filled craters that line most roads are a dip into the unknown for approaching vehicles.
For all the bumps and jolts I felt going through towns like Paterson and Dungog, the greatest jolt I got was when the premier Mike Baird came on the radio and announced that he was exporting a billion dollar industry to the other states because frankly it smells a bit.
I must say it took me a while to process what I was hearing, here was a government who in their own pre-election pitch were inheriting a State in dire financial need and one that needed decades of astute financial management to return its infrastructure to a 21st century level.
Now Mr Baird must have had some very strong reasons for closing down a profitable industry that employed thousands in regional areas and was highly integrated into the social life of many rural communities. Well, Mike said he was compelled to act because the industry had slaughtered 68 000 dogs in the previous twelve years.
Besides 20 percent of dog trainers were engaged in live baiting. It must be true because he got an eminent lawyer to conduct an enquiry and write a report. I guess someone forgot to tell the lawyer that everyone in the greyhound industry who is winning races is suspected of doing something illegal.
He even went as far as to say that this cruel industry and its people were beyond redemption. As a 30 year member of the industry, albeit in a different state, I was taken aback by his assessment of me and my fellow participants. I simply had to turn off the radio and stop for a break. Sitting in the coffee shop looking out at grey and gloomy sky I picked up a copy of a The Land, a New South Wales farming paper to finger through while waiting for my full cream latte and scone with jam and cream.
Mr Baird’s use of the word slaughter must have been front of my mind because my eye was immediately drawn to the weekly slaughter numbers for New South Wales abattoirs for pigs, sheep and cattle and I noticed that for the week in New South Wales there had been 106 000 lambs slaughtered. After a quick mental calculation that means in the last twelve years farmers were responsible for the slaughter of 66 million “Shaun the sheep’s”…… baaah! We don’t need to do the same calculation for pigs and chickens, do we?
I guess human beings eat the lambs, pigs and chooks, so it’s not “wastage”, but 100 greyhounds a week that cannot be found a home and are humanely euthanised are “wastage”. There appears to be a new social order of animals where it is alright to kill the ones we don’t have much to do with until we meet them “in the flesh” but those species that city people have relationships with seem to be regarded as animals with human rights and privileges.
I write as someone who would love all greyhounds to experience high standards of animal welfare, where they can experience the five freedoms which are freedom from hunger, fear, harassment, lack of shelter and the freedom to be able to express their natural instincts.
I have seen every day of my working life trainers of all qualities, some who were warm and some who were cold. But in my past 30 years I have overwhelmingly seen decent human beings who have endeavoured to provide the five freedoms who had total symbiotic relationships with their dogs. For those dogs who, for whatever reason, reached a premature death, 99 percent of them had structured and happy lives and moreover they had something that the future greyhounds of New South Wales will not have, they had fulfilled lives that I doubt any of them would change.
Finally Mr Baird, I urge you to fix your roads and also remember to encourage people rather than judge those you do not know!