COVID-19: Why are greyhound and horse racing continuing in a pandemic?
(full and integral article dd. 7/4/2020)
Why are greyhound and horse racing continuing in a pandemic?
Written by: Senator Mehreen Faruqi
COVID-19 has hit our country like a sledgehammer, with the double whammy of a health emergency and an economic shock.
We are told we need to do the right thing and make sacrifices to save lives, and that is exactly what everyone is doing.
Well, almost everyone. It seems there are a few select industries operating above the law.
No prizes for guessing they are the gambling and racing industries.
While the rest of the state’s non-essential industries are shutting down, horse and greyhound racing continues with reckless abandon everywhere other than Tasmania.
It is mind-boggling that racing would be considered essential.
Even putting aside the broader ethics of animal racing and the well-documented animal cruelty in both horse and dog racing, it is just plain selfish and risky to human health to hold races in the middle of a pandemic.
Animal racing involves participants driving long distances at a time when we are all being told to stay at home.
We are all trying to stop the spread and flatten the curve.
But while police move people on from sunbathing in a park, the racing industry is bringing dozens together at tracks around the country, where social distancing rules can’t be met.
It seems there is one rule for the powerful gambling-fuelled racing industry and another for the rest of us.
In the last month, racing bodies have put in place new rules, including banning crowds at events and designating greyhound racing zones to minimise travel.
But these piecemeal changes made by the industry are designed to protect their revenue, not people.
Even under the introduced ‘zoned system’, where participants can only race in a designated geographic zone, participants are travelling hundreds of kilometres at a time to race.
It is apparently perfectly okay for a greyhound trainer in Bega to travel almost four hours to race a dog in this age of COVID-19. In Sydney, all racers are being encouraged to travel to Richmond. Even worse, almost a third of participants are over 65, an age group vulnerable in the pandemic.
Now that racing is one of the last organised sports for gambling to stay open, it has a virtual monopoly on gambling revenue which it is intent on protecting, it seems even at the cost of human health.
To protect people, racing needs to be shut down nationally right now.
To protect animals, we need measures in place to look after their welfare throughout this crisis, including ensuring essential animal care work such as feeding and exercising can continue.
When the industries inevitably cry poor on this front, we should remember they make millions off racing these animals.
They can afford to put their money where their mouth is and take care of them now.
The big question: why is racing allowed to go on?
The cynic in me says vested interests.
The NSW and Victorian governments made $130 million in revenue from gambling on horse and greyhound racing in 2017–18 alone.
With organised sports suspended and clubs and pubs now shut due to the public health crisis, the government is losing lucrative revenue from gaming machines and sports betting.
We must never forget that gambling revenue is in fact financial losses from people that in many cases they can’t afford to lose in the first place.
Gambling is a parasitic industry that survives off people with a gambling addiction.
Andrew Miller, President of the AMA in Western Australia has the right idea, stating that racing should be put on hold to respect the rest of the community.
The health of the community should be top priority, not gambling profits.
It’s time the Prime Minister and State and Territory governments stood up to the gambling industry and made them follow the same rules as the rest of us.
Dr Mehreen Faruqi is a Greens Senator in the Federal Parliament.
Source: MEDIUM.com Senator Mehreen Faruqi
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