Bad Sports: Romanticising The Greyhound Industry Doesn’t Change The Facts


The Baird government deserves congratulations for finally moving against an indefensible industry, writes Jordan Sosnowski.

Working in the animal protection world, it’s not common to end the day chalking up a “win”. Instead, you become accustomed to scandal and the shock value wears away. So does your faith in politicians.

But upon hearing of Baird’s decision to end greyhound racing in NSW, some of my hope is restored. The announcement reflects a seismic shift in priorities for the Baird government and is welcome music to many ears.

It was a rude awakening, however, for many greyhound trainers. They are apparently “in shock” upon hearing the industry is to be shut down. Veteran trainers like Richard Sleeman, nostalgically remember the “good old days” (presumably before Animals Australia was around), and lament that their best pals would be rolling in their “flower covered” graves with the news.

Trainers say cruelty was never part of the racing industry they knew and loved, and that they spoiled their animals rotten.

But to say the greyhound industry isn’t cruel, is to sanction the killing of 17,000 healthy young dogs every year. It’s akin to saying it’s totally okay to kill up to 100 greyhounds at a time, just because they’re not fast enough.

new matilda, mike baird
NSW Premier Mike Baird. (IMAGE: Eva Rinaldi, Flickr.)

While I’ve no doubt there’s many trainers who love their greyhounds, the entire industry is rigged. It’s like slave labour bosses saying the workers have “good conditions” even though they’re only being paid $9 dollars a day. If you’re profiting from exploitation, it’s inconvenient to recognise the suffering of those exploited.

And trainers like Sleeman who actually take care of their animals after they’ve retired – as opposed to going out back and shooting them – are few and far between.

This is a “sport” that was never about the animals – it was about making money. You can try and cast a warm fuzzy light on the little Aussie battler who gets up early in the morning to take his doggies to the track. But it won’t erase the image of terrified possums being fastened to a lure and used for live-baiting. And it won’t drown out the howling of Australian dogs whining as insecticide is crudely used to put them down in mass graves in Macau.

Romanticising the greyhound industry is futile. Even viewed through a sepia lens, the industry doesn’t seem old and sweet, it just looks prehistoric.

And that’s because it is archaic. Just like wild animal circuses and keeping dolphins in captivity. These types of practices used to be regarded as harmless entertainment. But for the animals, they involve routine violence, suffering and death.

There’s a tendency to look at these industries with a lighthearted fondness, because we all might have childhood memories of going and enjoying ourselves. We tell ourselves the animals love it, or that trainers love the animals. So it’s all okay.

But these industries are based on animal suffering and exploitation. And they survive because people turn the other way and collude in a lie.

Not anymore though.

The Baird government should be praised for listening to public sentiment and finally calling out the cruel greyhound racing industry.

Let’s face it: the old days were never actually that good. Thankfully for animals, it seems as if they are well and truly gone.

Jordan is the Advocacy Director at Melbourne-based organisation Australia for Dolphins. She graduated from Monash University with a Master of Laws, Juris Doctor. Jordan was admitted as a lawyer in NSW in 2013 and is an Associate Fellow at the Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics.