Greyhound Racing – a zero sum game and everybody lost
This blog is not about the greyhound racing industry per se. I know nothing about the greyhound racing industry beyond what I read in the media. This blog is about the big picture wider ramifications for all livestock industries of the NSW Government’s recent decision to shut down the NSW Greyhound racing industry down without prior notification
It goes without saying if this poll is anything to go by the NSW Government has significant community support for their decision.
Animal welfare is important, very important and as a farmer I can only comment on my personal experiences. As a farmer I also have widespread access to a number of independent experts and organisations whose core focus is
ensuring animals having the best whole of live experience that the people who care for them can provide
and it is widely held that animal welfare in Australian livestock industries is generally good. See previous posts on the Real Story of Animal Abuse here
Farmers currently have been granted a much higher freedom to operate by the public than any other profession I know. However, what the Greyhound industry has reminded each and every one of us is that self-regulation is no longer an option. Self-regulation relies on the premise that all human beings are fundamentally good. Judicious regulation on the other hand recognises the fundamentally good human beings (and animals) need protection from the “bad eggs”.
The changing structures of food supply, the increasing influence of global brands, the
sophistication and influence of activist groups and the explosion of social networking and
new media create a new environment that requires those involved in food production to
explore new ways to build consumer trust and protect our freedom to operate. We need to
demonstrate to the rational majority that even though the size and scale of modern farms has changed, the commitment across the food system to do what’s right has never been stronger. .. Arnot and Mills 2014
The story of farming and animal welfare will be told. It is up to farmers to decide who will tell that story and how it is told. While farmers can choose to produce food in any way they like, consumers also have the ability to purchase the food that they believe has been produced in a manner consistent with their values. Unless farmers are connecting with consumers, it is left to consumers and other groups to fill in the gaps.
The world has changed and it opens a door of opportunity for agriculture to grasp the nettle – Ht Tenille
Differing consumers will always have differing views on what they think is the way their food should be produced. This means that there will be space in the market place for foods produced in different ways. This will require farmers from all productions systems to be transparent and show that their commitment to animals, people and the planet is worthy of support from consumers who purchase the food they produce.
Like the greyhound industry, farming will always be called upon to answer questions about how we treat animals, people and the planet in our daily quest to produce food. If farmers choose to let other people answer these questions, farming could quickly lose control of its destiny if it has not linked and truly connected with consumers.
And the way forward?
Farming is no different to other professions and there will be times when all farming industries have to look beyond short term self-interest to foster public trust .
Success will rely on open and transparent communications, engagement at all levels of community and government and a willingness to look for solutions that respect shared values and scientific rigor and provide a fair return for everyone in food system.
Governments will need to step up and find solutions that do not simply move the issue from one place to another.
Farmers will learn from the mistakes of others and have the courage to step up and say accountability has to be the mantra, and if grasping the nettle hurts to start with, so be it.