The Castle’s Darryl Kerrigan is a working-class bloke. Drives a Commodore. Has a pool room. Reads the Trading Post. His home’s his castle, even though under a flight path. And he owns greyhounds.
I've known many Darryl Kerrigans. Honest, hard-workers who love their families, their modest homes and their sport, especially rugby league and greyhound racing. Neighbours, friends and family in country NSW and Western Sydney raced greyhounds. Blackfellas and whitefellas alike. They didn’t have much but gave in spades, volunteering for schools, sporting clubs and community.
People from well-heeled suburbs mightn’t understand the appeal of the dogs. Some view the sport with turned up noses, like being served a prawn cocktail and VB for dinner. But for many Aussies the “poor man’s thoroughbred” is a staple.
In banning greyhound racing, the Baird Government tarred good people as vicious criminals. Many will lose jobs, livelihoods, even homes.
It makes me angry.
Angry it guts decent people, the vast majority of the industry.
Angry it picks on battlers under the pretence of animal welfare while thoroughbred racing, with its fashion parades, champagne and celebrities, continues.
Angry one class of people is imposing its taste and standards on others to close a long-standing, lawful industry.
Angry it’s based on a report with holes like Swiss cheese.
Two findings of the Special Commission of Inquiry’s Report into NSW greyhound racing underpin this decision.
The first: that “live baiting” is endemic and impossible to eradicate.
The Report’s live baiting estimates are as reliable as measuring wind speed with a wet finger. It concluded 10-20% of trainers engage in the practice, not from objective evidence or data, but because one self-confessed live baiter said so. Hardly reliable. Crooks generally associate with other crooks and it suits them to say “everyone does it”. But even on the Report’s estimates, crooks are a minority. The Baird Government destroying a whole industry for the wrongs of a few.
The second: that there’s high “wastage” of greyhounds; non-useful animals leaving the industry, presumed killed.
The Report’s wastage estimates are also rubbery. It quoted a trainer alleging mass drownings. The trainer may or may not exist. If he does, he’s from North America circa 2005.
Ultimately, the Report says reliable estimates aren’t important because even the conservative estimates don’t meet “animal welfare expectations of modern Australians”. The conservative estimate is 3,000 animals annually (around 30%). The Report claims it’s closer to 55,000 over 12 years (50-70%). Whichever. Horse racing kills more. A 2005 Sydney University report found wastage in the horse industries at 25% to 61% p/a. Around 37,000 horses in the 1998-99 year alone. That’s one year, not 12. Australia is one of the biggest exporters of horse meat – where do people think it comes from?
But horse racing isn’t banned.
In a submission to the Special Commission the Australian Veterinary Association stated that wastage is a reality in any biological population and zero wastage, while admirable, but unachievable. However, the AVA believed greyhound wastage could be reduced to very low levels within 2 years by implementing its recommendations, including lower grade racing which has particular appeal to smaller industry participants. The Baird Government ignored this and other proposals.
Wastage is a reality of every industry involving animals, whether sport, entertainment, work, companionship, science, clothing or food.
It's not just food industries producing meat. Do you eat eggs? Male chicks born to laying hens are killed at birth (around 12 million annually in Australia) even the hens laying certified organic, free range eggs. Do you drink milk? Dairy cows must calve annually, the “bobby calves” are slaughtered (around half a million annually in Australia).
Do you have a pet? In Australia, over 250,000 healthy cats and dogs who don’t find homes are killed annually. And millions of horses, cows and other animals are slaughtered to produce pet food.
Have no doubt, they'll soon be coming after something you care about or rely on.
Killing an animal, per se, isn’t illegal or cruel, if done humanely, according to accepted standards. Most Australians agree. But the Report says it’s irrelevant if wastage is legal. It’s about “ethical and moral considerations”. Industries only have a “social licence” to operate with “ongoing approval of the community and other stakeholders.”
Perhaps food is worthier than pets and pets are worthier than sport. Perhaps greyhounds are worthier than horses and pets. But are pets really worthier than someone’s livelihood? And who adjudicates these ethical rankings?
And who are the “community and other stakeholders”. Majority rule? MPs? The better educated? The loudest voices on social media? Groups with the most to spend on lobbying and advertising? What happens if people in Grafton approve of an industry which people in Manly don’t?
Here “social licence” is code for class bigotry. Only complete disregard (at best) or sneering disdain (at worst) for working-class people explains banning greyhound racing but not horse racing or other industries. Government is looking down its nose at working-class people and acting inconsistently – treating the poor man’s thoroughbred differently from the rich man’s.
I’ve condemned Labor previously for losing touch with its base. Here, the Liberals are out of touch; the Nationals betraying their base. Baird mightn’t have grown up around the people I did; may not understand why they love greyhounds. But he should get off his dung heap and try to understand people who differ from him before issuing moral edicts. Troy Grant should know better as Member for Dubbo, a greyhound racing heartland.
The Baird Government believes it’ll get away with this because it impacts working-class, low income people. People like Darryl Kerrigan. Well, Kerrigan told the government to get stuffed. NSW voters should do the same at the next election.
An edited version of this article was published in the Daily Telegraph on 11 August 2016.
"Social licence" is code for social bigotry
11 August 2016
By Nyunggai Warren Mundine