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Queensland Greyhound Industry Future

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Open Letter to the Racing Minister Hon. Bill Byrne


The Greyhound Industry in Queensland is concerned with its treatment and a lack of a measured response from the State Government with regards to Live Baiting.

As Greyhound Participants, we pay our taxes, we have mortgages, some have private health insurance, we believe we are mostly good people, and we respect the wider community.

But like a majority of Australians we were also sickened and embarrassed by the events portrayed in the 4 Corners Report.

What concerns us however is why the majority of participants which is currently 99% of the Industry are being treated like the 1% that have been found guilty?

The Premier made the comment that although there was no evidence to support that Live Baiting was “widespread”, it would be naïve to think that it wasn’t.

The word widespread in the dictionary means:

Distributed over a wide region, or occurring in many places or among many persons or individuals:

As of 1st August 2015, only 22 licensed participants on one property have been found conducting any illegal activity, this is less than 1% of Greyhound Participants in Queensland.

We understand that there still is an ongoing investigation, and that others may be charged in the future.

But where is the reasonable argument that the word “widespread” is reflective of Live Baiting in Queensland? Where is the evidence to support this conclusion?

The Animals Liberation had several cameras up on several properties, where is the evidence? I have read every one of the approximately 150 submissions made public, and there is no evidence whatsoever in my view to support this claim, nor to satisfy the use of the term, “widespread”.

Because of the message your Government has sent, the 99% of participants who have been found innocent at this time, have had to endure a constant barrage of questioning, and media “verbal abuse”.

We understand that Live Baiting is an emotive issue, but doesn’t the Government as a stakeholder in Greyhound Racing, have the responsibility to remove the emotions from it and deliver a measured response to the people of Queensland, but also on behalf of the Greyhound Industry?

Minister, you are quoted in Parliament as using the word “atrocities” in reference to the Greyhound Industry. Since when can what occurred on one property by a small group of individuals be compared to such vile acts as those that happened to the Jewish Community in World War 2, or Eastern Europe in the 1990’s?

The Premier only just recently made the continued promise that she will listen to both sides of the issues and treat everyone fairly, well in this case, the Greyhound Industry feels that it has not been treated fairly.

The Animal Liberation claim that 18,000 Thoroughbreds and 14,000 Standard Bred are killed every year, why was the Greyhound Industry the only Racing Code targeted?

You only have to read the Greyhound Racing page on the Animal Liberation website? Not one of their allegations is factual, they are biased, sensationalised and misreport basic facts to justify their argument.

1. Overbreeding: 20,000 bred each year. Fact: On average the Number has been 15,000 to 16,000, and breeding numbers have been reducing naturally for the past 5 years in Australia.

2. Anecdotal Evidence of mild electric shocks being used to make greyhounds run faster: False: There is no evidence to support this, and has never been heard of within the Greyhound Industry. It has been heard to be used in the Thoroughbred Industry though, and most likely where the Animal Liberation got the idea from.

3. Illicit drug use used to determine race results. False: There is no part of society including Human Sport where drugs it not an issue, but the Greyhound Industry has one of the better records when it comes to the Racing Industry. Only the Thoroughbreds and Harness are caught up in the Cobalt issue, it is systematic as vets are involved as well, and more people are being investigated than that who have been found guilty of Live Baiting in Greyhounds. Isn’t this an Animal Welfare issue? Why the double standards?

4. That Greyhounds are forced to wear muzzles 24 hours a day, which prevents them from removing insects from their bodies and licking their sores. False: The only time a greyhound wears a muzzle is when it is racing, it is part of the racing act. Councils also determine that when greyhounds are in public they must wear a muzzle.

5. Industry in Decline. False: The Greyhound Industry in Australia has increased its turnover by over a Billion dollars in the past 5 years. Queensland is the only State that hasn’t enjoyed this increase in turnover, because both sides of politics determine that it is better to prop up the other two racing codes. They also fail to support greyhound racing with policies to help improve their turnover, by delaying projects for new stadia, and closing down other greyhound venues, with no ability to rebuild.

6. If a dog doesn’t win or place in its first 6 starts, then it will suffer an early death. False: Where’s the evidence to support this claim? You only need to look at the maiden races across the country to see this is false.

7. 9 out 10 dogs are killed when retired, which equates to 18,000 each year. False: Considering that only 15,000 to 16,000 are born each year, if this many were killed, there would be no Greyhounds to race. They have no facts to support these claims again, they are sensationalised, and any person when you look at what these organisation promote, will soon work out that their numbers don’t add up.

Demand can’t outstrip supply, which means the Animal Liberation figures are false. So why the Greyhound investigation widened, with no evidence, yet did not involve the other two codes, who can’t account for their animal losses?

How can the people of Queensland make an informed decision on the Greyhound Industry, when only one version, and a version that has been grossly exaggerated, ill informed, misleading, and dishonest, been put forward?

You’re Government also questioned the Social License of Greyhound Racing in Queensland.

The Greyhound Industries social license should be a two-fold strategy, the individual and the industry. The individual must maintain the highest standards to not only meet the laws, but to try and achieve a higher standard. The industries (RQL) responsibility is to maintain the social license with the general public and stakeholders, by identifying risks, and putting in place processes to manage or remove them.

A Social License is the level of acceptance or approval continually granted to an organizations operations by the local community and other stakeholders. The License is a perception of legitimacy, does the Greyhound Industry go about its business in a proper way?

My argument that on reading every submission made public by the MacSporran Report, the overwhelming opinion and facts were not of the questioning the Social License of Greyhounds, but reputation. Reputation is the overall favorability of the image of Greyhound Racing, formed by emotional likes and dislikes.

Since when, are decisions made on individuals feelings, especially when they are coming from a minority group, who has been proven to exaggerate and mislead with their facts, and who’s main objective is to cease gambling on animals?

Another example is the submission from the Grey2K organization in America, who have no knowledge of the industry in Australia. Their claim to fame is apparently the closing of Greyhound Racing in 39 States in America. The truth is in a majority of these States Greyhound racing never existed, or had been closed down for years. The only other States where they were successful was in the banning of betting on Greyhounds, they still have amateur Greyhound Racing in these States.

Why Minister is the Greyhound Industries future being determined, not by the standards of the community, but the standards of the Animal Liberation? What qualifications do these people have with regards to the training, exercising, nutrition, grooming, welfare etc. of any animal athlete?

They have no facts or supporting evidence, just their personal feelings, based on their belief that animals shouldn’t be gambled on.

Why is it that of the over 150 submissions that were published, there were approximately 40 submissions from different people published, but if you read them closely, they were the same submission verbatim?

What would the general public’s view be of plagiarized submissions being accepted?

These plagiarized paragraphs can be found on the Animal Liberation website, so a person who doesn’t have all the facts, can cut and paste a document and email it to the Local Member or in this case the MacSporran Report.

The question has to be asked then why the Government question the Social License of Greyhound Racing in Queensland, yet are forming those opinions from individuals who are making emotional statements, with no evidence or facts to support their opinion.

Why are Greyhound Participants being held to higher standards than the general public, and the other Codes?

Are we now a society that is prepared to question others without evidence, just conjecture and rumour?

You have widespread reporting of alleged drug use at the Gold Coast Suns and other sporting codes; you have the reported systematic use of Cobalt in both Thoroughbreds and Harness, as well as, 12 Thoroughbreds being found dead in bushland in South Australia, yet Greyhounds are the only Industry having their Social License questioned.

In 2014, the RSPCA reported the highest level of animal welfare complaints in the history of them being recorded in Queensland, over 15,000. The RSPCA kill over 35% of the dogs that they receive, and approximately 500,000 cats and dogs are euthanized in Australia every year. Why is the Greyhound Industry being held to higher standards?

Yes, there has been poor record keeping with regards to Greyhounds after retirement, the Industry has to take responsibility. But it does not automatically mean the worst case scenario.

I made 20 phone calls to Greyhound Participants and asked if they have any retired greyhounds at home, I found 43 greyhounds.

How hard would it have been to investigate the numbers through contacting participants, rather than believing the worst case scenario? Where is the methodology to actually prove these accusations?

Animal Welfare is a Social issue, not just a Greyhound issue.

The Greyhound Industry supports a majority of the recommendations with regards to Integrity. But it is a slap in the face to our Industry when participants have been raising these exact same issues for several years, yet have been ignored.

When the McSporran Report and the Queensland Premier state that Greyhounds are not managing their own integrity, my question is, “When in the past 5 years did the Greyhound Industry have this power”?

As you are aware, the all-codes board is—a unit of public administration under the Crime and Misconduct Act 2001.

The all-codes board must perform functions in best interests of all codes of racing. In performing a function of the board under this Act, the all-codes board must perform the function in a way that is in the best interests of the thoroughbred, harness and greyhound codes of racing as a whole while having regard to the interests of each individual code.

Since the formation of the all codes board, there has not been one project, policy or recommendation to support Greyhound Racing in Queensland. From the view point of the Greyhound Participant the all-codes board has been an abject failure.

Greyhound Participants over the past 5 years have had meetings with both sides of politics and raised serious issues regarding welfare. Why didn’t anyone listen?

When do the politicians take their responsibility?

We agree that the Community has an issue with Live Baiting and want to see those people brought to justice, but they don’t tar the whole industry with the same brush that the Government appeared so eager to do.

Any negative movement in the general public, is because only one side of the argument was put forward, and reinforced by using words like, “widespread”, “atrocities”, “Integrity” and “Social License”.

The average person, the stakeholder who punts on Greyhound Racing does not have a problem with the sport. Yes, they have a problem with the individuals portrayed on the 4 Corners program, and expect them to be brought to justice. But they don’t agree with the witch hunt, misinformation and sensationalism portrayed in the media.

Even the Federal Government Minister Barnaby Joyce called it an overreaction, and those found guilty should be the focus, not the majority of innocent good Greyhound Participants.

You are an elected official and for better or worse, you are supposed to remove the emotion from the subject and deal with all parties involved fairly and with equality.

Innocent Greyhound Participants have been assaulted, sent mail with a white powder in the envelopes, and have had dead possums, hares and chooks thrown over their fences. Some of those have been young families with children, and are guilty of nothing.

Why is this acceptable? Why was this not brought to the attention of the general public by yourself or the media? Why have these innocent participants not been apologised to?

This is what happens when the emotion isn’t removed, and the true facts not revealed.

Many Greyhound Participants have had concerns with Animal Welfare since 2010, yet neither side of politics was prepared to listen. The Industry was also acutely aware of the threat of the Animal Liberation and that the Industry was exposed.

What we have learned though, is the Greyhound Industry would have had to break the law, film the footage on a private property ourselves, and then go to a media organization, before someone would listen to Industry concerns.

More people have now been caught up in the Cobalt inquiry, than that which have been banned for Live Baiting. Both are welfare issues, yet only one is an overreaction in the context of people caught to the number of licensed participants, while the other is ignored.

The question has to be asked why Greyhound Participants should continue investing in greyhounds, when it is obvious that neither side of politics supports it.

It has been in the media that RQL will be meeting with Industry Participants to discuss Racing’s future. The Racing Industry is a business and should be treated as such. But while Governments continue to support the largess of both the Thoroughbreds and Harness, who operate outside their turnover, nothing will ever change.

Both codes are struggling to maintain their betting turnover, which is their primary income source. Yet in the business world where the policies set for the Greyhound Industry would be seen as a restraint of trade and fraud, are supported by both sides of politics in Queensland.

If you supported Greyhounds in Queensland to operate within its full percentage of turnover, allowed it to build the Stadia and facilities that will increase turnover, create more jobs, this would benefit the whole of the Racing Industry as well as the larger Community.

In our plan, Greyhound Racing would never see one dollar needed from the State Government moving forward, the industry would be self-sufficient. Within 5 years we would have approximately 20% of betting turnover, and we would be able to give back to the Racing Industry to support the other Codes.

But somehow, history tells us that Greyhounds will continue to operate on someone else’s plan, which has nothing to do with supporting Greyhounds, and growing their Product.

If this is the case Minister, can you please be honest and inform Greyhound Participants that you have no intention of supporting the Greyhound Industry, so at least we know where we stand.

A representation of Greyhound Participants, are willing to discuss these and other issues with you at your convenience.

Kind regards

Brenton Wilson

On behalf of Greyhound Participants throughout Queensland

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