WHEN Premier Mike Baird announced his decision, earlier this month, to legislatively ban greyhound racing in NSW, the Newcastle Herald’s response was to say that he was acting more like an emperor than the head of a democratically elected government.
Having appointed former High Court judge Michael McHugh to lead a special commission of inquiry into the NSW greyhound industry, Mr Baird nailed his government’s colours to the mast before the industry and the public had a chance to read and absorb the resulting – and undeniably damning – report.
Predictably, public opinion has split into opposing camps, and while each side has valid points to make, the very inflexibility of the government’s position means it has little choice but to plough on regardless of what emerges in the meantime.
Since the original announcement, we have learned that some of the damaging quotes about greyhound wastage come not from the NSW industry, but from a somewhat dated report from the United States.
And now, with some National Party MPs openly unhappy with the ban, the government has seized on the release of the long-awaited report into the Keinbah Trial Track near Cessnock – and its mass grave of at least 99 dogs – as evidence that its “worst fears” have been realised. The Keinbah report shifts the focus from live-baiting to wastage, and while there is no doubt that large numbers of greyhounds have met untimely and sometimes cruel deaths over the years, the government’s summary justice has denied the industry any real opportunity to reform its practices. If the government is shutting down dog racing because of animal cruelty, what does it make of RSPCA statements that wastage in the thoroughbred and trotting industries is close to 40 per cent of horses bred, and that many of those too slow to race end up not as pets, but in the knackery?
Indeed, if the same animal cruelty logic was applied across the board, the government would find plenty of evidence to justify shutting down every branch of animal agriculture, where, to put it bluntly, animals are bred to die as human food. It won’t, of course, but that does not mean the parallels aren’t real. And while the government may well have right on its side as far as the greyhound ban is concerned, its handling of the issue so far leaves a lot to be desired.