“All that is needed for the forces of evil to triumph is for enough good men to do nothing”
Edmund Burke’s quote might be overworked, but it surely rings true in New South Wales at present.
From 12,000 miles away, I can almost sense the anger of the average NSW dog man. He is in the majority. He races for fun and loves his greyhounds, yet today, he is viewed with disgust and mistrust by neighbours and strangers alike.
The group who were prepared to tie a possum, a piglet, or just about anything else with a pulse, to a lure, are very small in number. But in the minds of most Aussies today though – ‘its what they do in greyhound racing’.
Take a sample of British public opinion and they will tell you that we ‘feed them meat pies before they race’, ‘put chewing gum between their toes’ or ‘put them down when they have finished racing’. All this skullduggery but bookies make a significant profit from a £2bn annual turnover!
I doubt we will ever change that mentality, but at least when Government came calling, we opened our doors to their enquiry, and there were no skeletons in cupboards.
The welfarists were gutted. As presumably were the GTA whose submission to the EFRA report claimed:
- Greyhounds drugged for gambling ht5 drug “stoppers” over three years ago covered up, only just being released, but not all, in part due to leaking of a GBGB document in 2014 mentioning the widespread drug abuse and gambling scandal including performed by GBGB licenced personnel
- Reports sent to GBGB not investigated if incidents occur on bookmaker owned tracks
- Track vets are told not to put dogs down at certain tracks so it puts makes out they have less injuries, as per statistics, some dogs suffer appalling pain overnight until they are put down the next day by a non-track vet
Just three examples – there were many more – of the GTA’s contribution to UK racing.
The ‘live baiting’ incident in New South Wales followed a series of welfare related incidents in other states including last year the discovery of dozens of carcasses of greyhounds on wasteland in Queensland.
Queensland legislators have already warned their greyhound industry that they are on their final warning. Victoria has followed suit.
The truth is, there is still work to be done. One old joke about a particularly successful Victorian trainer claims ‘he would tie a blond haired child to the lure if he thought it would get him a winner.’
Those days are now surely over. The fact that NSW’s governing body are indignant having “transformed the industry in the past 16 months” is surely the ultimate in ‘too little too late’.
The majority of decent New South Wales dog folk will have their sport taken away next year – not by the state government – but by the actions of their own people, and their governing body who consistently turned a blind eye to what was going on.
The majority of Star readers are hands-on with knowledge of greyhounds and understand why anyone would want to set a greyhound to attack and kill a smaller animal. But for those who don’t understand the concept, it is perhaps more complex than you might imagine.
Starting with the basics, the earliest racing greyhounds were coursing dogs who were often too ungenuine or slow, to chase a real hare.
The track business relied on dogs being persuaded that the artificial dummy was real. Some believed it, other didn’t, and refused to chase. From tales of the time, quite a few were in the middle ground who would chase with enthusiasm and then attack the opposition with equal spite.
There is no doubt that the early racing greyhounds were – on average – considerably more aggressive than they are today.
Over the years, many trainers noted – usually with some disgust – that ‘modern’ greyhounds lacked the fire and determination of their predecessors.
Today’s racing greyhound is probably between 25-30 generations on from the earliest racers and the refinement in breeding has had a significant impact on their temperament.
Today, many breeders still like to take their pups on a ‘hunt’ normally out in the open countryside where they might strike up a rabbit or fox.
It doesn’t matter that they might not actually catch their quarry, it is the pursuit that brings out their hunting instinct.
Over years, trainers would often take a hound to a place where it could chase and kill a rabbit with the expectation that the dog would then return to the track with added enthusiasm to win.
BUT – it was far from an exact science and many dogs would become so manic after a kill that they would fret away in the kennel and/or miss their break and lose all chance of winning.
The other downside of a dog ‘getting a hunt’ was that it became a slippery slope. Each subsequent hunt had a reduced impact on subsequent races to a point that some dogs wouldn’t chase without it.
Many good judges are convinced that it has been the lack of kills was the single greatest reason for greyhounds losing form – not drugs – once they left rural Ireland to join a racing kennel in England.
Personally – I also strongly subscribe to the theory that the whole practice had a major effect on breeding. I believe that the reliance of some Irish trainers on kills resulted in false champions. Once at stud, their progeny were as ungenuine as they were, and they would ultimately flop at stud. Conversely, the dogs who became champions in England needed greater reserves of honesty, which ultimately passed on to their progeny.
Certainly, Irish racers have a much poorer record at stud than English racers.
The other major factor to consider when racing is this: a significant percentage of racing dogs are not chasing to kill. They know they aren’t chasing a real rabbit. They are chasing for a similar reason that a dog chases a stick or a ball – they simply love the chase.
Ironically, greyhounds have become much more genuine since crossing with the Australian and American lines. American dogs are seldom retired with less than 70 races on their record, sometimes over 150, and that requires a high level of honesty and tenacity.
Australia also has some incredibly genuine bloodlines with the Eaglehawk Star and Head Honcho lines throwing a fanatical desire to chase.
Putting aside the criminal and regulatory penalties, it is the minimal benefits or counterproductive effects that has seen ‘blooding’ disappear as a training tool in Britain.