Last week saw a stunning, and largely unexpected, win for decency in NSW with a flow-on across the border into Canberra.
In February 2015 the ABC’s “Four Corners”, spearheaded by the formidable Caro Meldrum-Hanna, shone a light on the sadistic practice of live baiting in greyhound racing.
The spectacle of small fluffy animals being tortured to death to brutalise greyhounds, in the hope of getting them to run faster, was shocking.
The NSW government ordered an inquiry and, in the normal run of things, some recommendations were expected, some promises to try harder made with a wink and a nudge and the caravan would move on.
Instead, the inquiry looked deep into the abyss of greyhound racing and concluded that it was beyond redemption.
The Baird government, when asked to weigh a mountain of dead dogs and native wildlife against a multi-million dollar industry, surprised by deciding to “take off and nuke the entire site from orbit” as Sigourney Weaver said in “Aliens”.
A few hours later, the ACT government announced the industry had no future here either.
Followers of these things watched the press conference with jaws agape. Normally there are mealy mouthed recommendations, these in turn must wait on even blander government responses many months later.
Usually there’s some sort of multi-agency steering committee to be established to monitor the issues going forward.
In the everyday run of things, by the time any machinery is in place to do anything, the original issue has been completely forgotten.
The system works this way because it is supposed to work this way.
Concern for the wellbeing of people, let alone dogs, doesn’t ordinarily get in the way of commerce.
The cynic might question whether this strong moral response doesn’t have something to do with the fact that most people involved in the greyhound industry come from the wrong side of the tracks.
It’s an industry that thrives where land is cheap and it doesn’t take a lot of money up front to get into it (unlike, for example, horse racing).
But as a line in the sand, I’ll take it. As a precedent that cruelty will not be tolerated, even if it means that millions of dollars will be lost and large community facilities will be turned down, we can celebrate it.
I look forward to seeing this reasoning being applied to lots of other awful nooks of society where “it’s how we’ve always done it” remains the watchwords.
The bizarre thing in this saga is how unnecessary it has been. Dog racing is little more than a random-number generator for the gambling industry.
Nobody cares exactly how fast a dog goes around the track, as long as an order of finish can be presented in a timely manner.
It’s not as if the dogs are competing to go to the greyhound Olympics.
Appallingly lax regulation in the industry has allowed internal competition for prizemoney to lead practitioners into sickening practices.
But as a society we’ve said we’re not putting up with it any more.
We’ve got a long way to go, but it’s a good step forward.
(Incidentally, there are going to be a lot of greyhounds needing homes, so if you possibly could take one, they make lovely lazy pets, get in touch with an organisation such as egreyhound.com.au)