An Australian state announced the banning of greyhound racing from July 2017, thus responding to animal welfare associations.
PROHIBITION. The happiness, for the Australian Zac Kessanis, is not so much to see his greyhound win that to see him run. But this pleasure will soon be nothing more than a memory: an Australian state has just forbidden the races, putting the whole country in turmoil. “For 30 seconds, we are the kings of the world, we are proud of what happens,” said the owner of Ella Has Class, a four-year-old female greyhound sprinting in front of hundreds of spectators in Sydney. But as of July 2017, there will be no more races at Wentworth Park. After a series of scandals around the use of live lures and the slaughter of tens of thousands of dogs, the state of New South Wales, the most populous of Australia, will banish this industry.
The ban is motivated by a government investigation that found that over ten years, tens of thousands of dogs were killed because they were not running fast enough. Others have shredded live lures (pigs, rabbits and opossums), a practice yet forbidden but supposed to “give them the envy of the blood”. Normally, these very popular races, which are the subject of pari-mutuel betting, take place on a cynodrome where the greyhounds pursue a mechanical hare pulled on a rail. The world of greyhound racing is up against the decision of the authorities. Owners of dogs and coaches say they love their animals and that, in fact, this prohibition is part of the class war.
Thousands of dogs “too uncompetitive” slaughtered
Since their development in Australia at the beginning of the 20th century, greyhound racing has been associated with the working classes: they take place at night, the entry price is low, and it is possible to bet without breaking the bank, while everyone can hope to become the owner of a future champion. In the 1920s and 1930s, dog races were described as “sport for the masses” and the Harold Park rink in Sydney attracted up to 30,000 spectators.
In recent decades, this number has been greatly reduced, in part because there is no need to physically attend the competition to be able to bet. But greyhound racing is still very popular. Amateurs also argue that this practice generates millions of dollars of bets each year and that the sector employs at least 15,000 people.
But animal advocates denounce a cruel sport. “The reality is that the industry has an obscure side,” says the report of the government’s special commission of inquiry. “The slaughter of several thousand greyhounds long before they reach the normal limit of their life expectancy is perhaps only a business for many breeders, owners and coaches. A cruel business, “the commission writes. According to this report, between 48,891 and 68,448 dogs have been slaughtered in the last 12 years because they are considered too uncompetitive. At the same time, many greyhounds were seriously injured during races.
“As a responsible and responsible government, we have no choice but to abolish this industry,” said New South Wales Minister Mike Baird. The report notes that commercial dog races, which give rise to bets, are legal only in seven other countries of the world and are prohibited in 40 American states. In Australia, owners as coaches are shocked. They stress that they are ready for reforms and do not exclude judicial remedies. “The greyhounds are the best treated of all the dogs I know, I deal with the coaches, the owners, permanently, they love their animals more than anything,” says Coach Dean Swain to AFP.
Breeders who love their dogs but…
Mr. Swain, who has 24 greyhounds in his stable, attributes their success to the fact that he takes care of it – including by making them listen to music. “I would not be successful if I did not love them,” he said. For him, the ban will result in financial disaster. It is also, he says, the end of a non-negligible part of social life for the fans: “That’s why some people get up in the morning. Go to the races to talk to their friends and to compete “.
This prohibition is “anti-Australian, we talk about 100 years of history”, “the very essence of our society”, laments the coach. Animal advocates do not deny that some owners and coaches love their dogs. The problem, they hammer, is that the greyhounds never arrive on the cynodrome. “We have live lures, wasting, doping, injuries and poor living conditions,” says Lisa Chalk of Animals Australia. “The sector has had a lot of time to reform and chose not to do it,” she said. Meanwhile, at Wentworth Park, the loudspeakers announce the next race. The spectators sipping beers. And Zac Kessanis denounces an “absolutely devastating” ban, which “hurts”.