“To run and hunt by sight is the fulfillment of a greyhound’s basic instinct”.
When you see some of the wild accusations from critics of greyhound racing – prominent in the list of submissions to the current NSW inquiry – you have to wonder if they have ever bothered to actually see what is going on.
Ideally, let them be sentenced to a week’s worth of attendance at the kennels to see how the dogs react as they arrive for their races. As soon as the youngsters get out of the trailer, they are prancing around, eyes big, muscles straining, bursting with energy. They know they are at the races and they love it. They can’t wait to get a chance to roar after the bunny and beat out their fellow competitors.
It’s worth repeating a verse I once saw tagged on a giant poster:
“Man runs to beat time
Horses are urged to run
Greyhounds are born to run”
Variations on that theme have spawned books and even movies, to say nothing of ensuring the survival of the breed.
The NSW GBOTA was responsible for the poster many years ago. Its main feature was a photo of an upstanding sire, whose name I forget. However, it could easily be duplicated today by using a similar, if not better, photo of a current sire. The point was that we have all seen a thousand of those but I know one that was special. It captured the very spirit of the canine athlete and the purity of its 6,000 years history.
What an impression a new poster would make on billboards across the country! It might even remind the naysayers that there is more to the sport than the stuff they dredge up. More importantly, it would suggest to the public that the breed makes a significant and valuable contribution to modern day life.
MEAT PIES, KANGAROOS AND … GREYHOUND RACES?
History may be instructive.
Holden is in its death throes, as its American parent was a few years ago, because it was far too slow to catch up with what the outside world was doing. GM itself got bailed out by the US government (and is now profitable), although that did not save Detroit, as the city has now gone into bankruptcy. Gas guzzlers are out, six and eight cylinder Premiers and Statesmen are just fond memories. Ford is no different.
Almost in parallel, Qantas got by for decades on a perceived reputation – an Aussie icon – and a fierce nationalistic attitude, equalled only by a winning Test team. It assumed it had a God-given right to 65% of the action, even though its international business had long lost that sort of edge (it’s down to 10% now and that same domestic figure is under serious threat). Neither its wonderful safety record nor any amount of cost-trimming could overcome that home-grown culture that said we are better than the other guys.
But everything has a price. Qantas stayed high too long, as did Ansett and TAA before it. Rising fuel costs affected both Holden and Qantas in one way or another but management tended to act after the event, not to anticipate it. That’s too late. Smart, lower-cost airlines filled the gaps on local and overseas routes, so Qantas ended up chasing its tail. In five years time, expect to see a radically different industry structure.
Racing has gone down a remarkably similar road, falling from a 50%-plus share of the gambling market to barely 10% today. Customers found other options for their recreational dollars, usually handier to where they worked or lived, or on the phone or internet. Racing has chased the latter folk, too, but the bird has flown. The market has split every which way, NT bookies drove trucks through the gaps, and it will never be put together again, or not like it was. Monopolies like Tatts are in real strife, while Tabcorp continues to lose ground to the myriad of new betting outlets popping out of the ground. Unfortunately, like cars, that has split the business into ever-decreasing shares, few of which support decent punting.
Returns are not really keeping up with inflation, which may be one reason that breeding numbers are flat or declining in all codes. Don’t judge things by the friendly government in Victoria but by the national totals.
And, above all, if your customers are dying off, move quickly to find some replacements. Anyone who sees greyhounds as no more than four-legged poker machines is at risk of losing out to someone who builds a fancier machine.
It can be done, but not unless the industry goes back to scratch and starts again. A bit of cost-cutting will never be enough.