The culture of greyhound racing
In this moment of serious crisis for the racing industry, with tracks closing down in the US and in London and whole industries about to be dismantled as in NSW Australia, racing supporters have been desperately making all manner of fantastical attempts at saving the reputation of an activity which stands out for its total disregard for the dogs it makes use of and often for the laws of the land itself, as well as for the most elementary rules of civilised behaviour in Western countries.
And there is one argument that regularly gets wheeled out, even by the odd show business celebrity, who is probably stuck in a world vision worthy of the Jurassic period.
According to this argument, closing the race tracks is tantamount to destroying working class culture. This vision assumes that including something in a type of culture automatically implies that it is a good thing, but actually that is a myth which also betrays a certain amount of ignorance and superficiality. For if it were true, we would have to justify all the various practices around the world that are part of so called ‘cultures’: child brides, infibulation, the consumption of dog meat, the Spanish fiestas in which animals are brutally killed, to name but a few.
Actually, the concept of culture is neutral and dynamic: culture is nothing but a system of rules which define how individuals should behave in specific contexts. And culture changes, in space but also in time. For instance the concept of an eye for an eye, which was acceptable in the Neolithic age, no longer is. The same goes for the medieval custom of burning people alive.
So to qualify racing as part of the culture of any social group does not justify it.
And what would be the kind of culture proposed by greyhound racing? Even leaving aside the doping, the use of live baiting, the exploitation and elimination of thousands of greyhounds, what exactly is the system of values enshrined in the racing industry?
Gambling is at the core of greyhound racing, and so the main focus of the ‘culture’ of greyhound racing is an activity which is addictive, in which few win and many lose, and in which the ability to manage one’s life and one’s resources in a rational way is sacrificed to the pursuit of easy money, which anyway only ever materialises for very few people. The dealer always wins, the poor devil always loses.
To assume that this could be a positive value for the working classes means presenting as desirable a model of life based on being in a dazed state: after a hard day’s work you can go and throw away your money at the track, and maybe even get drunk. And you can do it without even going to the track, on the internet, where the betting seems unreal but the money you lose is real enough. As real as the danger of becoming addicted to gambling, with all the social and personal damage that derive from it.
This kind of culture has nothing to do with the culture of work, if anything it is the antithesis of it. The Jurassic period is just the right age for this anachronism called greyhound racing.
© By Massimo Greco Translated by Isobel Deeley
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