Greyhound commission (mis)fires from the hip

THIS is serious, deadly serious.

The September 28 opening speech – some might say rant – by Stephen Rushton SC, counsel assisting the Special Commission looking into greyhound racing in , has offered the first public view of where the is going. (Following on from our comments earlier this week, we now have the benefit of full transcripts). Apparently, a great deal has been going on behind the scenes, including the taking of formal evidence, but none of it has seen the light of day.

However, the tenor of the Rushton speech has three key characteristics:

(1) The Commission’s investigation is far deeper and more forensic than any conducted in other states – efforts which we have previously criticised as being superficial at best, political at worst.

(2) It uses evidence and data from the last several years to paint a fairly solid picture of events concerning the numbers of greyhounds (some dubious), the industry’s culture and the sometimes misleading attitude of .

(3) Rushton adds to this his own emotional content, often suggesting that the answer is to “shut the industry down”, almost regardless of the fact that his comments so far address only a portion of the operation of the industry.

This quote summarises his position to date; “If we continue to have a situation where the figures that I have just shown you cannot be managed, and in a way we view and the community would have an expectation that they would be managed, going forward, then the only responsible submission I could put to you is that this industry cannot continue.”

That is an extraordinary claim in the circumstances. After speaking about only a small part of the industry he now wants to wipe it out. Clearly, he is pushing a view rather than evaluating the options.

Of major interest is that Rushton claims that GRNSW and most participants were well aware of the practice of live baiting, and that it has been widespread, yet did little or nothing about it. It is hard to fault his major conclusion, although the proportions may be debatable. To some , that view is supported by the of the Working Dog Alliance report to GRNSW in that the code’s biggest challenge is to overcome the reluctance of participants to modernise their habits, all the while ignoring community standards.

The ongoing process is now going to be dominated partly by that cultural problem but more critically by the practice of euthanasing unrequired dogs in large numbers. Here Rushton claims that this is unacceptable to the community and therefore must stop or be radically reduced.

He bases that view on the premise that an industry which uses dogs for entertainment or commercial purposes is ethically unsound. But is that fair and reasonable? Horses, other dog breeds and cats fit into the same category. Indeed, any pets would (and pet shops). The household foxie is there for the enjoyment of the family, weird and wonderful crossbred dogs are fashioned solely for sale to the public. Relatively few thoroughbreds are confined to the racetrack or end up at pony clubs – the majority head for the knacker’s yard. And how many kittens are drowned after birth?

Rushton’s main, or only, solution to wastage issues is to reduce breeding numbers. This is a furphy by any account. Even were it to come about, it would not change the proportions, only the absolute numbers, which would still leave us with the same philosophical issues to solve. By implication, a smaller level of activity would harm the efficiency and the economics of the industry, leaving fewer resources to devote to welfare subjects. Shutting down also implies that someone will magically come up with an answer to the problem of disposing of some 20,000 or more greyhounds overnight, as well as all the infrastructure, people and jobs supporting them, to say nothing about the resultant gaps in state government finances.

But, yes, in theory shutting down can happen. It’s been done before in plenty of centres in Australia as well as overseas. Some of those decisions came about when non-believers were in the majority (as occurred in Massachusetts in USA) rather than from any logical evaluation of the risks and rewards. Across America the simple reason for most closures was that they failed to make money, either by themselves or together with associated casinos.

In the end, it is all a matter of perception. Some people like greyhounds, some don’t.

The same applies to claims about racing injuries – featured by Rushton as well as in Animal Liberation protests – constituting a reason for the cessation of racing. To follow that line implies that every other sport known to mankind should also be eliminated. All of them are susceptible to injuries, even deaths, purely as a by-product of competition. And, of course, nature is not nearly so forgiving in the wild.

Rushton’s speech was narrow in perspective and prone to hyperbole and dramatics, rather than to systematic evaluation of the good and bad points about greyhound racing. As such it lessens the value of the better points he made. Let’s hope that more balanced views appear in future hearings and, indeed, in decisions.

Now, none of that is to excuse poor behaviour. Or, even more importantly, it does not excuse the bad management which Rushton has already identified. What it does do is to focus attention on the way the industry is structured, which then governs how both short and long term management can flourish.

Clearly, the current practice of management by committee is a rank failure. It isn’t management at all but just . There’s a big difference between taking positive action and just shuffling papers. Responsibility is muddy, vision is clouded, innovation is minimal, and outside views are ignored. The racing industry’s current system comes from the dark ages and should be sent back there.

For the first time in memory, the code’s very existence is under threat, and deservedly so. But the aim should be to make it better. Eliminating it makes no real sense.

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Hugh_
Hugh_
5 years ago

There’s a problem when your defense of the industry practices relies on pointing your finger at other industries that also have problems and essentially say “but they are doing it too”.  Right now the light is being shone upon greyhound racing, and it’s practices revealed to the public.  Other industries will have their turn.  You only further guarantee your own demise if the only defense you can offer is that other similar industries are equally bad. You correctly identify many of the failings of the industry, but you seem to be unable to fully understand the source of public outrage,… Read more »

1_petersen
1_petersen
5 years ago

GreyhoundRacing todays multi?

BarbaraWindsor
BarbaraWindsor
5 years ago

“Shutting down also implies that someone will magically come up with an answer to the problem of disposing of some 20,000 or more greyhounds overnight” – Please tell me you’re not saying that unless we allow the industry to continue killing 17,000 greyhounds a year, then we’ll have to kill 20,000 one time with no more deaths. It would take all kinds of stupid to not work out the flaws in that math.

jamieson1881
jamieson1881
5 years ago

Hugh_ Hugh-the arbiter of community standards (I’m reminded of Margaret Thatcher’s most memorable reply when interviewed by George Negus) Your attack on Bruce’s article loses integrity because you quickly assume the moral high ground and fail to competently address the specific points he raises.  I would assume that our community thinks it’s perfectly fine to use the tool of comparison.  Bruce is perfectly entitled to refer to other ‘like’ industries when arguing a point. Debate thrives on the ‘use of comparison’ On one hand, you criticise Bruce for the use of this technique but then you immediately use it yourself… Read more »

Hugh_
Hugh_
5 years ago

jamieson1881  I don’t consider myself the arbiter of community standards, but after reading many of Bruce’s articles I feel that I better understand the outrage by those in the community that would like to see the greyhound industry shut down. Bruce is entitled to use comparison’s in his defence of the industry, I have at no point suggested that he isn’t, he is entitled to write whatever he wants in his articles.  I simply offer a criticism of what he has to say.  By pointing at other industries his implication is that community outrage towards the greyhound industry is unjust… Read more »

Todman
Todman
5 years ago

Antis trolling greyhound sites who would have thunk it, $&754! Off and get back under your rock

jamieson1881
jamieson1881
5 years ago

Hugh_ jamieson1881 Yes Hugh, you are in the minority. You make some valid points in your critique of my reply and then spoil it all by ending it with ‘Bruce is a fool’. You would be better off to just use dot points to state your argument.  Yes, it all comes down to choice.  You can’t seem to come to grips with the fact that some people choose to race greyhounds. I’m opposed to duck hunting but once again, if people choose to partake in such a venture then they every right to provided it is within the legal framework. I… Read more »

Hugh_
Hugh_
5 years ago

jamieson1881 Hugh_ I only brought up animal choice as a critique of a particular analogy.  Bruce repeatedly brings out the argument that if we ban animal sports because of the health/injury/death cost to the animals, then by the same logic we have to ban all human sports too.  I’m saying that this argument is flawed because humans choose to put their lives at risk when they partake in dangerous sports, and that’s a big difference.  If humans were forced to participate in dangerous sports then his argument would be sound, but this isn’t the case. You’re extending that one point to… Read more »

Hugh_
Hugh_
5 years ago

Todman It’s not trolling to present an opposing point of view.  I’m sorry if you don’t like it when someone presents an opinion you disagree with.  Discussion and debate are good things.  But perhaps you favour censorship.

jamieson1881
jamieson1881
5 years ago

Hugh_ jamieson1881 I totally agree with you concerning the welfare cost. Hopefully the industry is addressing this concern-if it doesn’t then the future looks bleak. Although I don’t agree with your views on choice, I certainly respect your right to voice your opinions and concerns. Good luck with your pursuits.

gxd4b0
gxd4b0
5 years ago

lol, even the current head of greyhound racing in NSW has thrown you lot under a bus with talk of still wanting live baiting to continue. And this is why it needs shutting down. You cant teach stupid, and there is a lot of stupid in the greyhound racing industry.

jamieson1881
jamieson1881
5 years ago

gxd4b0 Plenty of ‘stupid’ in the ‘kale and quinoa’ set as well mate. RSPCA in W.A investigate animal cruelty case against shearers for shouting too loudly at sheep, Senator Sarah Hanson-Young’s doozy concerning that ‘documentary’ known as Border Watch…and what about the latest howler from an AA rep who stated that greyhound pups as young as 4 months old are being put down because they are not fast enough. You can’t teach stupid to lefty extremists GXD.

Hugh_
Hugh_
5 years ago

gxd4b0 I don’t think he is so much throwing anyone under the bus, I think what he is trying to convey is that if attitudes don’t change then the industry may guarantee it’s own demise.  The importance of that message can’t be understated. I might be wrong, but the impression I get is that a lot of people in the greyhound industry think the only people that are up in arms about these various welfare issues are extreme “lefties” or “greenies”, and thus a vocal minority of society.  I think they seriously underestimate how much the average citizen is genuinely… Read more »

cressy
cressy
5 years ago

The determined witch hunt being conducted publically into greyhound racing vagrants seems pointless given that the existing Racing Rules and the NSWRacing Statute gives ample power even to the skeleton remains of GRNSW to carve off and exterminate those who are breaking the rules and make haste to stabilise the industry. Clearly the evidence is showing that the previous GRNSW Board seemed unwilling to make the required effort required by the Greyhound Racing statute to properly regulate the industry and so both they and the NSW Government as the ultimate controller must ultimately accept a considerable part of the blame… Read more »

Hugh_
Hugh_
5 years ago

cressy Ultimately there is a certain amount of discretion that law enforcement agencies can exercise when it comes to pursuing crimes, the police are not going to create a public relations nightmare by arresting people for exposing live baiting. Given that there is a history (previous inquiries) that demonstrates the system in place was woefully insufficient to prevent these practices even when they were reported, the illegal placement of surveillance cameras (if it is in fact illegal) is very defensible in this context. Additionally there are certain circumstances under which preventing a crime can be a defence for committing a… Read more »

jamieson1881
jamieson1881
5 years ago

Hugh_  Yes Hugh, you are wrong.  You are in the minority and you keep harping on about the thought processes of the ‘average citizen’.  My take is that the average citizen either accepts or is otherwise apathetic towards all codes of racing, despite the few rough edges associated with aspects of these activities. Yes, live baiting is a heinous crime  but I feel that the community realises that steps have been taken to address the shortfalls in the industry and that the administrators have listened to arguments from groups such as yours.  You would welcome the fact that the RSPCA… Read more »

Hugh_
Hugh_
5 years ago

jamieson1881 Hugh_ The fact that you label people who care about animal welfare as the “kale and quinoa” set and seem to think the presence of a “soy latte” at a track is of consequence suggests to me that you have a pretty warped view of the types of people that care about animal welfare.  You think my views are minority, but meanwhile MacDonalds, Subway and soon Coles will no longer sell cage eggs.  What does that tell you?  You can’t get much more mainstream than MacDonalds, and a business like that doesn’t change it’s practices unless it’s convinced it needs… Read more »

jamieson1881
jamieson1881
5 years ago

Hugh_ jamieson1881  I’m sure that you surf through the online greyhound sites on a daily basis as part of your job so you should be aware of the many recent changes i.e artificial lures ( purely synthetic materials-btw, I’m assuming that you wear faux leather Hugh?) abolition of state-based breeding incentive schemes, life-time tracking of greyhounds, additional funds for GAP, penalties for breaches for animal cruelty being increased (Vic) etc.  Once again, you have use a broad brush  to tar all members of the greyhound community.  When I watched the ABC report I was shocked and appalled by what I had… Read more »

Hugh_
Hugh_
5 years ago

There’s a problem when your defense of the industry practices relies on pointing your finger at other industries that also have problems and essentially say “but they are doing it too”.  Right now the light is being shone upon greyhound racing, and it’s practices revealed to the public.  Other industries will have their turn.  You only further guarantee your own demise if the only defense you can offer is that other similar industries are equally bad. You correctly identify many of the failings of the industry, but you seem to be unable to fully understand the source of public outrage,… Read more »

1_petersen
1_petersen
5 years ago

GreyhoundRacing todays multi?

BarbaraWindsor
BarbaraWindsor
5 years ago

Shutting down also implies that someone will magically come up with an answer to the problem of disposing of some 20,000 or more greyhounds overnight” – Please tell me you’re not saying that unless we allow the industry to continue killing 17,000 greyhounds a year, then we’ll have to kill 20,000 one time with no more deaths. It would take all kinds of stupid to not work out the flaws in that math.

jamieson1881
jamieson1881
5 years ago

Hugh_ Hugh-the arbiter ofcommunity standards (I’m reminded of Margaret Thatcher’s most memorable replywhen interviewed by George Negus) Your attack on Bruce’sarticle loses integrity because you quickly assume the moral high ground andfail to competently address the specific points he raises.  I would assume thatour community thinks it’s perfectly fine to use the tool of comparison.  Bruce is perfectly entitled to refer to other’like’ industries when arguing a point. Debate thrives on the ‘use ofcomparison’ On one hand, you criticiseBruce for the use of this technique but then you immediately use it yourself torefute his claims.   Most readers wouldclearly see that… Read more »

Hugh_
Hugh_
5 years ago

jamieson1881  I don’t consider myself the arbiter of community standards, but after reading many of Bruce’s articles I feel that I better understand the outrage by those in the community that would like to see the greyhound industry shut down. Bruce is entitled to use comparison’s in his defence of the industry, I have at no point suggested that he isn’t, he is entitled to write whatever he wants in his articles.  I simply offer a criticism of what he has to say.  By pointing at other industries his implication is that community outrage towards the greyhound industry is unjust… Read more »

Todman
Todman
5 years ago

Antis trolling greyhound sites who would have thunk it, $&754! Off and get back under your rock

jamieson1881
jamieson1881
5 years ago

Hugh_ jamieson1881 Yes Hugh, you are in the minority. You make some valid points in your critique of my reply and then spoil it all by ending it with ‘Bruce is a fool’. You would be better off to just use dot points to state your argument.  Yes, it all comes down to choice.  You can’t seem to come to grips with the fact that some people choose to race greyhounds. I’m opposed to duck hunting but once again, if people choose to partake in such a venture then they every right to provided it is within the legal framework. I… Read more »

Hugh_
Hugh_
5 years ago

jamieson1881 Hugh_ I only brought up animal choice as a critique of a particular analogy.  Bruce repeatedly brings out the argument that if we ban animal sports because of the health/injury/death cost to the animals, then by the same logic we have to ban all human sports too.  I’m saying that this argument is flawed because humans choose to put their lives at risk when they partake in dangerous sports, and that’s a big difference.  If humans were forced to participate in dangerous sports then his argument would be sound, but this isn’t the case. You’re extending that one point to… Read more »

Hugh_
Hugh_
5 years ago

Todman It’s not trolling to present an opposing point of view.  I’m sorry if you don’t like it when someone presents an opinion you disagree with.  Discussion and debate are good things.  But perhaps you favour censorship.

jamieson1881
jamieson1881
5 years ago

Hugh_ jamieson1881 I totally agree with you concerning the welfare cost. Hopefully the industry is addressing this concern-if it doesn’t then the future looks bleak. Although I don’t agree with your views on choice, I certainly respect your right to voice your opinions and concerns. Good luck with your pursuits.

gxd4b0
gxd4b0
5 years ago

lol, even the current head of greyhound racing in NSW has thrown you lot under a bus with talk of still wanting live baiting to continue. And this is why it needs shutting down. You cant teach stupid, and there is a lot of stupid in the greyhound racing industry.

jamieson1881
jamieson1881
5 years ago

gxd4b0 Plenty of ‘stupid’ in the ‘kale and quinoa’ set as well mate. RSPCA in W.A investigate animal cruelty case against shearers for shouting too loudly at sheep, Senator Sarah Hanson-Young’s doozy concerning that ‘documentary’ known as Border Watch…and what about the latest howler from an AA rep who stated that greyhound pups as young as 4 months old are being put down because they are not fast enough. You can’t teach stupid to lefty extremists GXD.

Hugh_
Hugh_
5 years ago

gxd4b0 I don’t think he is so much throwing anyone under the bus, I think what he is trying to convey is that if attitudes don’t change then the industry may guarantee it’s own demise.  The importance of that message can’t be understated. I might be wrong, but the impression I get is that a lot of people in the greyhound industry think the only people that are up in arms about these various welfare issues are extreme “lefties” or “greenies”, and thus a vocal minority of society.  I think they seriously underestimate how much the average citizen is genuinely… Read more »

cressy
cressy
5 years ago

The determined witch hunt beingconducted publically into greyhound racing vagrants seems pointless given that theexisting Racing Rules and the NSWRacingStatute gives ample power even to the skeleton remains of GRNSW to carve off andexterminate those who are breaking the rules and make haste to stabilise theindustry. Clearly the evidence is showing thatthe previous GRNSW Board seemed unwilling to make the required effort requiredby the Greyhound Racing statute to properly regulate the industry and so boththey and the NSW Government as the ultimate controller must ultimately accept aconsiderable part of the blame for enabling certain persons to run rampantwithout their policing.… Read more »

Hugh_
Hugh_
5 years ago

cressy Ultimately there is a certain amount of discretion that law enforcement agencies can exercise when it comes to pursuing crimes, the police are not going to create a public relations nightmare by arresting people for exposing live baiting. Given that there is a history (previous inquiries) that demonstrates the system in place was woefully insufficient to prevent these practices even when they were reported, the illegal placement of surveillance cameras (if it is in fact illegal) is very defensible in this context. Additionally there are certain circumstances under which preventing a crime can be a defence for committing a… Read more »

jamieson1881
jamieson1881
5 years ago

Hugh_  Yes Hugh, you are wrong.  You are in the minority and you keep harping on about the thought processes of the ‘average citizen’.  My take is that the average citizen either accepts or is otherwise apathetic towards all codes of racing, despite the few rough edges associated with aspects of these activities. Yes, live baiting is a heinous crime  but I feel that the community realises that steps have been taken to address the shortfalls in the industry and that the administrators have listened to arguments from groups such as yours.  You would welcome the fact that the RSPCA… Read more »

Hugh_
Hugh_
5 years ago

jamieson1881 Hugh_ The fact that you label people who care about animal welfare as the “kale and quinoa” set and seem to think the presence of a “soy latte” at a track is of consequence suggests to me that you have a pretty warped view of the types of people that care about animal welfare.  You think my views are minority, but meanwhile MacDonalds, Subway and soon Coles will no longer sell cage eggs.  What does that tell you?  You can’t get much more mainstream than MacDonalds, and a business like that doesn’t change it’s practices unless it’s convinced it needs… Read more »

jamieson1881
jamieson1881
5 years ago

Hugh_ jamieson1881  I’m sure that you surf through the online greyhound sites on a daily basis as part of your job so you should be aware of the many recent changes i.e artificial lures ( purely synthetic materials-btw, I’m assuming that you wear faux leather Hugh?) abolition of state-based breeding incentive schemes, life-time tracking of greyhounds, additional funds for GAP, penalties for breaches for animal cruelty being increased (Vic) etc.  Once again, you have use a broad brush  to tar all members of the greyhound community.  When I watched the ABC report I was shocked and appalled by what I had… Read more »

AaronC_NZ
AaronC_NZ
5 years ago

This is not so much about the culture of live baiting, rather the culture of deceit from industry officials, and culling slow dogs. Culling is not confined to a subculture within the industry.

AaronC_NZ
AaronC_NZ
5 years ago

“Shutting down also implies that someone will magically come up with an answer to the problem of disposing of some 20,000 or more greyhounds overnight”

If someones going to kill all their dogs then let them put their name forward. I hear a lot of suggestions that “other” people will do it but no one has the mettle to actually stand up and say “I’m going to kill all my dogs”

Its a myth Bruce.

AaronC_NZ
AaronC_NZ
5 years ago

BarbaraWindsor They need to name names so rescue groups can seek to intervene.

Or maybe trainers can read the writing on the wall and decrease breeding now, further.