Opinion Pieces

Cruel, Ruthless Industry has Run its Race

In what kind of weird parallel universe does the new Prime Minister own a poodle cross called Toto Albanese, clearly living in the lap of luxury and boasting 30,000 Twitter followers, while down the road, and in thousands of rudimentary kennels all around the nation, greyhounds scarcely out of puppyhood run for their lives with a horrible bounty on their dainty heads.

It’s one of the strange contradictions of life in Australia in 2022. But here in Tasmania, if you sniff the breeze, you will detect that something substantial is stirring out there in the community.  

At the time of writing, nearly 10,300 Tasmanians have signed a House of Assembly Parliamentary e-petition calling on the State Government to stop using approximately $10 million dollars annual of our tax dollars to prop up an industry that the majority of people demonstrably do not support. The petition closes on June 9.  It is on its way to equalling or surpassing the figure achieved two years ago by  the advocates for Voluntary Assisted Dying laws, now legislated.  AT the time the VAD petition was the biggest in Tasmanian history and double the figures ever achieved by any other parliamentary petition.

It would be a good idea for Mr Rockliff, Ms Ogilvie and their lockstep Labor counterparts to lift their noses from their laptops and take serious notice.

They could do worse than to get out of their offices and chat to some real people out in the dog parks and the coffee shops. I’d recommend a quick stroll on a Saturday morning around my neighbourhood!

Meanwhile, back on the track, Stewards reports in Tasmania continue to provide grim reading.   They show that hundreds of dogs are still being maimed, injured and killed every year, on and off the state’s three dog tracks – despite some efforts in the last six years to improve welfare outcomes. 

Just last month an eighteen month old female pup called Fly Calypso was leading the field when she died most horribly in Launceston, colliding at top speed into a barrier. You don’t have to be an especially squeamish person to recoil at the thought of what that might have looked like. 

And yet this State supported, institutionalised cruelty continues in the shadows night after night. 

It’s not front of mind for ordinary people battling cost of living and health and housing pressures. But when they learn that ten million dollars of their taxes are actually going to prop up dog racing, they are at first incredulous and then furious.  ‘Bullshit”, “That’s insane”, and “No way!” are some of the common reactions I hear. 

Clearly, you don’t have to be Price Waterhouse Cooper to work out how much could be achieved if those ten million dollars a year were redirected to into something like health, housing or our underfunded public schools.

The State Government defends this expenditure by asserting that it supports jobs and that it somehow generates worthwhile revenue for the economy.

It’s a strange kind of magical thinking that attempts to have us believe making 843 greyhounds run around racetracks results in an ‘economic benefit’ of $53 million to Tasmania. Even if it were true, is anyone doing the sums on the established social harms from problem gambling, and the dollars that are needed to even attempt to mop up the human casualties of all that?

The world is changing. Tasmania, like every other state in Australia, is desperately short of people to work in high quality, future focussed, sustainable industries.

The dog racing ‘industry’ is a tragic relic of the nineteenth century. It has already all but died out in its country of origin, the United States, where state after state has now closed it down.

Tasmanians are not stupid.  They are demonstrating in unprecedented numbers that they want better value from their taxpayer dollars.

And clearly, many are also asserting that they want a much better deal for the defenceless and gentle greyhounds at the centre of the whole blood stained spectacle.  

Come to think of it, cute little Toto Albanese might have a tail wag or two to offer in support of all of that.  

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