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Supporters of Mike Baird’s greyhound racing ban have slammed what they see as his backflip on important policy. From inside the greyhound racing industry, here’s what the reversal means.
I got the first good news I’ve received in months yesterday. Mike Baird and Troy Grant have announced that they are backing down from the greyhound racing ban in New South Wales. I already know that there are people reading this and grunting to themselves about how the industry needs to be shut down, that they don’t care about the opinion of a greyhound trainer, that all greyhound trainers are monsters and that Mike Baird has dropped the ball.
Let me assure you, as someone who cares so deeply for the welfare of animals, who has never struck, hit or mistreated an animal in my entire life, that this is a good outcome.
The last three months have been hell. When the ban was first announced, The Big Smoke published my feelings toward it. I’ve grown up my entire life with greyhounds and genuinely have a family-like connection to the sport. Some of my closest, dearest and most trusted friends I know only through the greyhounds. The ban was a devastating blow for our industry, which is full of people who have been working tirelessly for months to try and rectify the mistakes of the past. My own immediate family have been dragged through hell and back merely for being associated with greyhounds.
Being given less than twelve months to sort out the welfare of thousands of greyhounds was and is not enough time to do it effectively. Our main concern has always been what would have happened to these dogs if the ban had gone through? I read many a comment section where people had written “a short term catastrophe is a long term win” and every single one of those people make me sick to my stomach; how can they be so strongly against animal cruelty but sign the death certificate of thousands of innocent creatures because a better alternative couldn’t be found?
Too many people wouldn’t know where to begin without their dogs, and couldn’t afford to keep them if they weren’t racing. The thought of what would have happened to these animals still keeps me up at night.
Most greyhound trainers aren’t cruel, most don’t race their dogs until they are exhausted, most don’t live bait. Of those who have, I can say with confidence, at this stage, there aren’t many left in the industry.
We’ve been weeding them out, bit by bit. For as long as I can remember, our governing bodies in NSW were as weak as piss. There would be trainers testing positive for banned substances who would get disqualified from racing for life, to come back to train dogs in other people’s names. Other trainers would complain and it seemed like nothing would get done.
Then, the Four Corners thing happened. We thought it was going to be the end of the industry, but what happened instead was we got a new board, one that would enforce what the majority of the greyhound community were asking for all along. We got rid of so many bad apples. People associated with live baiting or mistreating their dogs were suspended or disqualified. There was a huge crackdown, and that’s not just lip service. The industry was improving in leaps and bounds.
Until July when the ban was announced, we honestly didn’t know what to do. The industry had come so far since February 2015 when the Four Corners exposé had aired; it was almost unfair. We’d been trying and working together so hard to improve the industry to a state that we could be proud of, then this bombshell was dropped from out of nowhere.
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There has been vitriol and anger from the greyhound camp, but fear is what breeds these emotions. I know way too many people who truly wouldn’t know where to begin without their dogs, and people who couldn’t afford to keep them if they weren’t racing. The thought of what would have happened to these animals still keeps me up at night.
We still have a long way to go. As it stands, a good majority of the public don’t like the greyhound industry due to the report from the special commission into greyhound racing. As somebody who has read the report and happens to know that the numbers are vastly exaggerated, I implore anybody out there to dig a little deeper about the “facts” the report presented – like “Ernie”, who was discovered to have been a greyhound trainer from the USA who was interviewed eight years ago, or the rates of euthanasia which are depicted as much higher than they actually are. The report also didn’t count for all the retired racers who are currently residing in owners and trainer’s backyards. We have three, and they’ve never been happier.
As it stands, we don’t know what the future holds for greyhound racing, there are going to be some strong conditions put on the sport in NSW which I assume will be in regards to breeding rates and all round welfare of the dogs. I don’t know a single trainer that will have trouble complying with these conditions.
Thank you, Mike Baird for overturning the decision and not throwing the baby out with the bathwater. We won’t let you down, our lives depend on it.