I might be getting cynical in my old age but when an industry turns to an international crisis management firm for help, spends money on full pages ads in the local paper, sets up fancy public relation websites, and starts to attack community advocates, I’m inclined to think they are more than a little worried. And that is exactly the kind of behavior we are seeing over the last month or so from the greyhound racing industry.
This kind of public relations exercise does not come cheap either. But I suppose when you’re spending taxpayer funds – as the greyhound racing industry is so generously supported with government funding – it’s no skin off their noses.
So should they be worried? Absolutely they should!
It’s been prompted, it seems, by the success of the historic, record breaking e-petition to Parliament calling for an end to the large government subsidy that props up dog racing in Tasmania. 13,519 people told their elected representatives exactly what they thought about dog racing. This was the largest e-petition to be tabled. Ever. On any subject.
It’s hardly surprising though that Tasmanians care deeply about the welfare of dogs. After all 44 per cent of Tasmanian households contain at least one pet dog – that’s the highest number in Australia. Many of these people see their dogs as valued family members. I know I do. People in the community tell me all the time that they like the gentle greyhounds they encounter walking around the neighbourhood with their humans and they feel so sorry for the ones stuck in the racing industry and the ones that don’t survive to make it into a loving home.
I don’t for a minute believe the community are fooled by the dog racing industry’s propaganda or baseless claims.
So what are the racing industry spin doctors trying to get us to believe? For a start, they’ve tried to paint those who have spoken out about the cruelty in dog racing as “activist minorities”. In actual fact they are well respected organisations such as the Dogs Homes of Hobart, the RSPCA and Tasmanian Dog Walking Clubs, who have been supported by thousands of ordinary community members who simply can’t stand the thought of animal cruelty.
The industry would also have us believe that racing dogs are “loved and cared for by their owners just like they’d care for one of their children.” If you believed this industry rhetoric it conjures up an image that these gentle giants are tucked up at night on the couch with the family watching Home and Away, snuggled in their winter jammies, with their favourite soft toy, and snacking on a Schmacko. But lets inject some reality here. Most trainers have four or more racing dogs (and in the case of one infamous trainer over 90). A trainer with five or more dogs would almost certainly have their dogs outside. In concrete kennels. With little interaction or normal dog playtime. They aren’t beloved pets. They are units of production in a business. And if the industry genuinely believe the vast majority of dogs are treated like children then we not only have a animal welfare issue on our hands but a child welfare issue too!
The industry’s claim that criticism of the embarrassingly high injury rate is unfair because even pet dogs get injured is particularly offensive to the thousands of Tasmanian families who have a dog and do all they can to ensure their pooch is not put in harms way. There is no denying that pet dogs do get injured. But it’s usually the result of an accident. When greyhounds get injured it is no accident. They have been deliberately put in a dangerous situation and forced to race so that someone can try and make a quick buck. If you accept the industry’s defence here then by extension we might as well reintroduce cock fighting because the occasional beloved backyard chook gets hurt too! Ridiculous!
Of course, it’s a free country and everyone’s entitled to have an opinion. But the campaign to end dog racing in Tasmania is a story of David and Goliath, with Goliath funded by the Tasmanian Government using your taxpayer dollars. However, I give this warning to the dog racing industry – just like David, the grassroots animal welfare advocates have plenty of heart, courage and commitment! We will continue to speak up. We will keep shining a light on the cruelty. The dog racing industry does not have a social licence and is living on borrowed time. Given their “crisis management”, I think they know it too…