(Image via bet-au.com)

Peter Wicks discusses the unethical greyhound racing industry, its indefensible cruelty and the need for a nationwide ban.

THIS WEEK NSW Labor leader Luke Foley has done an extraordinary thing.

He has basically driven Labor Party members in NSW to the Greens — and he has done so in a fleet of Greyhound buses.

He has done this through his kneejerk reaction to Mike Baird’s ban on greyhound racing in NSW, as of July next year.

His reaction has been at first to question Baird's judgement on the ban, then oppose it, then promise to overturn it and finally, in a fit of something that resembles either madness or desperation, used it to claim class warfare, saying the ban was elitist”.

It's an alarming position from the State branch of the Labor Party that only two years ago, was seen as the branch with the strongest animal welfare position. How the whiff of short-sighted opportunity has poisoned things.

This opposition for the sake of opposition not only puts Luke Foley in the same class of politician as Tony Abbott, it does enormous damage to a state branch that did so well in the federal election.

To the voter it says that NSW Labor places higher value on political opportunism than they do on their own credibility and integrity. It also tells members who feel their integrity is worth something that they have two remaining options. Should they wish to remain a Labor Party member they can move to the ACT, where the party stands up for their values instead of using them as a bargaining chip or, failing that, I'm sure the Greens will welcome them with open arms.

The ACT branch of the Labor Party have shown that this is not just a Liberal/Labor stoush. The ACT Labor government have also banned greyhound racing, demonstrating that compassion and doing the right thing should be bipartisan.

Last week, Labor members and voters were shocked that a Liberal government would act on the greyhound issue so decisively. The only thing they may have a tougher time comprehending is why on earth Labor would oppose it.

This really is "twilight zone" territory.

If Labor have any desire to be the major party of opposition in NSW at the next state election, their best hope is to tell us all that this was a captains call and then figure out a way of dealing with the captain.

There have been all kinds of ludicrous excuses for opposition to the ban.

The dogs will be killed

Yes, they may well be but this is an industry that slaughters tens of thousands of dogs, so the cycle has to be broken at some point. Then there are the rabbits, possums and other animals that have been tortured and killed as live bait for training purposes.

Baird will sell off the racetracks to developers

And? We should continue to allow the torture and slaughter of thousands upon thousands of animals rather than build some flats? Mike Baird has guaranteed that the publicly owned tracks will remain public space but if he breaks that promise it will be of little concern to the dogs being used for dental experiments, or having their blood drained.

Other industries like the meat industry kill thousands of animals 

Yep, no denying that. Next time I sit down to my Sunday roast greyhound or KFC possum, I’ll remember that too. The meat industry kills animals in the pursuit of food, not the pursuit of entertainment or the gambling dollar.

A greyhound tears a live possum apart at training. Source: abc.net.au

The owners and trainers love their dogs 

I’m sure many do. However, I find it odd that those claiming to love their dogs are threatening to kill them all now they can’t race — that doesn’t sound like love to me. When a council closes down child care centres and playgroups we don’t hear of parents threatening to kill their kids.

Elitist argument

As for the elitist argument, what a load of crap.

The argument that any person of any background can go and enjoy a day at the greyhound track is just as true for thoroughbred horse racing. There is no dress restriction and nobody has to show their previous year's tax returns to enter at Randwick or Rosehill. Minimum bets with the bookies are still the same and so are the food and drink prices.

One can’t help but wonder at Foley’s connection with greyhound racing if he is really ready to put his neck in the noose over it.

Some may remember that upon becoming NSW Labor leader, one of Foley’s first announcements was not one involving schools or hospitals but instead, $339 Million in tax cuts to the greyhound racing industry. This was made in the midst of the Special Commission of Inquiry into the industry after countless cases of animal cruelty, drug usage, corruption and a complete lack of accountability and unwillingness to rectify the situation, even after being exposed.

One wonders why this is the issue he has dug his heels in over.

Still, he is not alone. Foley has the support of those from the industry who have “done nothing wrong” and have been caught up in the saga because of the actions of others bringing the “sport” into disrepute.

People like the Lords, who told the ABC,

"A very small minority of people did things wrong because they thought they could get away with it.”

The Lords have been disqualified several times for doping dogs with steroids and even cocaine and have also been charged by Greyhound Racing NSW with illegally exporting dogs to Macau, where dogs often face horrendous torture and brutal deaths. The use of illegal drugs like cocaine make me wonder why the Lords aren’t languishing in prison.

But let’s remember these are apparently the good guys of the industry.

Let’s also remember this is not a “sport”. No greyhound has made a conscious decision to take up athletics. While training may be a talent, so is being a mechanic, however, we don’t treat car repairs as sport.

You won’t hear me praise him often, however, Mike Baird needs to be congratulated on his decision to act so decisively to end the abuse. It was a gutsy decision — far better than his lacklustre reaction to the horrendous puppy factories scattered across his state.

With Mike Baird and the ACT's Andrew Barr both announcing a ban, we can only hope that other state governments will have the courage to follow their lead.

It is only appropriate to also say that this would not have happened without the persistence of the late John Kaye of the Greens who, unfortunately, passed away before seeing the inquiry he fought so hard for, hand down its findings.

To Bill Shorten, thank your lucky stars this didn’t happen a couple of weeks ago or your new red map of Western Sydney might look considerably bluer.

To Luke Foley, the reason you find you are having to defend your actions so heavily is due to the fact that you have chosen to defend an indefensible industry. 

This disgraceful industry needs a nationwide ban.

Peter Wicks is an ALP member and former NSW State Labor candidate. You can follow Peter on Twitter @madwixxy.

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