Release the hounds
It was long past time for the greyhound racing industry to be shut down


Oh, the poor, persecuted greyhound owners.

They love their pets, they really do. The nurture them and care for them – well, the ones who are not “wasted” in their tens of thousands, humanely by a vet if it is not too expensive, or more ruthlessly by the breeders and trainers who have no further use for them.

And they are the lucky ones; the less fortunate are exported to Macau, where they are brutally dispatched by the most convenient method.

And that’s just the doggies themselves: there is also the use as live bait of possums, rabbits and other animals which have been mauled to death illegally for years. This is considered normal by many trainers, and the rest turn a blind eye, as do the so-called administrators of the industry – which is what they call it rather than a sport, which sounds far too kind.

And of course the whole business is a byword for rorts and malpractice; race-fixing and doping are just part of the deal. Most civilized jurisdictions outlawed it years ago.

The forensic and detailed report of former high court judge Michael McHugh, who, incidentally, is far from a bleeding-heart Greenie, held that greyhound racing was irredeemable. It was not just a matter of attempting to reform a few bad apples; the cruelty and corruption were endemic, not aberrations, but an inevitable part of the culture surrounding the dishlickers.

But of course the dog owners were outraged: why, they were the victims, the battlers; they were being unfairly targeted in a class war by inner city elitists who knew nothing of their traditions.

Tradition, in fact, was the sum total of their defence: greyhound racing had been going on for yonks. It was part of the Australian ethos. Therefore, it should continue forever – like, say, bear-baiting, domestic violence and school bullying.

Naturally, the populist media unearthed sturdy sons of the soil and the suburbs to deny that they themselves had ever indulged in the barbaric practices revealed by McHugh. Particularly telling was the trainer who swore that he had never and would never export his dogs to Macau; the problem was that his wife and partner in the enterprise had been charged with exactly that offence.

The industry is mired in deceit and denial. It is not the only industry that needs to be examined, and perhaps discarded, but it has become an obviously indefensible one. Mike Baird is right and brave to call it what it is, and do something about it.

And it is worth noting that, last week, during that prototypical example of sadistic celebration in the name of sport, bull fighting, a toreador was gored to death in Teruel. In Spain it was accounted a national tragedy. In some other parts of the world there was a certain sense of schadenfreude: at last the animals had got one back.

So perhaps the dog owners, breeders and trainers have got off lightly. They have only to lose their pastimes. Tens of thousands of dogs under their watch have already lost their lives.

Mungo MacCallum

Mungo MacCallum is a political journalist and commentator. His books include Run Johnny Run, Poll Dancing, and Punch and Judy. Visit his blog, The View from Billinudgel.

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