When Mike Baird announced the ban on Greyhound racing in New South Wales one of the principal reasons was that some 68,000 greyhounds had been put down in the last decade in New South Wales alone because they were too slow to be raced.
The figure is shocking, particularly for people outside the industry. People inside the racing industry have known about this from time immemorial, they just haven’t done anything about it. Greyhound Racing Victoria set up the Greyhound Adoption Program but it only saved a small fraction of animals and it only saved greyhounds.
The issues at stake are summarised by two comments.
The first from a thoroughbred racing industry insider who said: “You don’t see any thoroughbred horses walking around the streets of Melbourne with green collars on.”
And the second from Deputy PM Barnaby Joyce who said with crystalline stupidity, “I haven’t read the report and to be quite frank, I don’t intend to read the report but what I do is know a lot of people who breed greyhounds and they seem like decent people.”
The harsh facts are that if we wish to have a racing industry then a lot of dogs and horses are going to be destroyed when their useful racing life is over. If we don’t want to have are racing industry, then the livelihoods of tens of thousands of people will be destroyed.
What Mike Baird has done is define the issue in those simplistic terms and come down in favour of banning greyhound racing in New South Wales.
But in taking this relatively simplistic approach he has opened up a can of worms.
His first problem is that an organisation called the Greyhound Owners, Trainers and Breeders Association or GOTBA, which has been around for yonks and has a lot of money and political clout, is going to fight the ban.
You can be pretty certain that one of the things they will be saying to Mike Baird (behind closed doors in the first instance) is “Don’t make an example of us, this is going on in the thoroughbred industry as well and neither you nor your well-connected, racehorse owning mates want that exposed.”
It was interesting that the report that led to the ban on Greyhound racing in New South Wales was handed to government just after Malcolm Turnbull announced the federal election. The decision to ban greyhound racing was not announced until after the federal election had been held. It is unlikely that the announcement would have won the coalition any seats in city electorates but it is highly likely that it would have been an influence in rural electorates.