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SPORT

Oct 31, 2016

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Early on a Saturday morning in October 2014, a 22-metre long, highly graphic billboard was unveiled above one of Melbourne’s busiest roads.

Strategically placed right in front of an advertisement for the upcoming Spring horse racing program, the billboard featured a dead horse lying on the ground along with the tagline, “Is the party really worth it?”.

Paid for by the Coalition for the Protection of Racehorses (CPR), a small Melbourne-based protest group formed in 2008, the billboard placement was nearly cancelled by the landowner the night before, and only lasted a few days before it was taken down for good.

The provocative sign was successful in sparking a heated debate surrounding the group’s issues with horse racing, but it also marked a turning point in CPR’s ongoing tactics.

This year, you won’t see any gory images depicting the cruelties of horse racing through any traditional advertising routes. CPR campaign director Elio Celotto says the group has given up on these methods, with billboard advertisers no longer willing to show the anti-racing message — “now they won’t even talk to us,” he says.

Instead, the CPR has turned its attention towards a guerrilla marketing campaign and some inventive methods to raise awareness of its concerns with horse racing, which centre on the treatment of horses throughout their lives as racing animals, especially the issue of “wastage”, which refers to when horses are put down when they are no longer financially lucrative.

“It gets harder and harder for us each year to get our message out there and get paid advertising up around town,” Celotto tells Crikey. “There are a lot of vested interests in them [advertisers] not doing anything that would make the racing industry angry, and we find ourselves in a position where we have to fight harder to get the message out there.

“The billboard companies don’t want to touch it and neither do the taxi-back advertisers, so we’ve had to resort to different means of getting the message across.”

[Keane: yes, I hate the Cup — and for damn good reason]

While commuters will have to trample over a series of ads for Sportsbet and the Melbourne Cup to reach their train at Southern Cross Station, they won’t have to glance at any billboards showing dead horses this year.

Instead, the CPR has been employing guerrilla-style methods including “Ripper”, a plastic horse travelling around Melbourne in a float draped with distressing images of suffering horses, banners hanging over busy streets, chalk messages on city sidewalks and projected signs onto Federation Square.

And, most effectively for the group, CPR has been focusing its efforts on social media, where the tide is already turning against the annual race that stops the nation. In recent years, it has become just as common to see Facebook statuses or Tweets condemning the Melbourne Cup as it is to see glamorous photos of drunk punters attending the event.

No longer does the CPR have to rely on stubborn advertisers to reach the masses, now all they have to do is produce a video and let it loose on social media. One of these videos, a 35-second post focusing on the three horses that have died during the Melbourne Cup race across the last three years, has now been viewed over 14,000 times and shared over 500 times.

“While it’s harder and harder for us to get our message out there, it’s easier and easier for people to find out the truth,” Celotto said. “The racing industry needs to spend tens of millions of dollars to get the numbers going to their event but we only need somebody to see something once or twice to really make them think.

“Anyone that claims to care about animals cannot watch the videos we’ve produced and then say it’s OK to go to the races. You either love horses or you love horse racing.”

According to Celotto, this new style of marketing and awareness raising is working, with declining attendance figures at the Melbourne Cup and Spring racing calendar as a whole.

Attendance at the race that stops a nation has dropped steadily over most of the last decade, falling from just over 110,000 in 2010 to barely more than 100,000 last year. Punters have also been less enthusiastic for other flagship events like the Caulfield Cup.

[Rundle: condemning the Cup is a moral atrocity]

“We think we’re getting our message across,” Celotto told Crikey. “The Melbourne Cup has been in decline now for the past eight years, and that’s the time we’ve been around for. Racing has certainly lost its shine as people become more and more aware of the reality of what is actually going on.”

To mark the Melbourne Cup tomorrow, the CPR will be holding a “picnic and protest” event at a park directly across from Flemington Racecourse, with an aim to peacefully inform punters of their concerns about horse racing, and to show them that they can have virtually the same day without being complicit in animal cruelty.

“Our job on the day is to make people think about the other side of the racing industry and to show them that you don’t need to support the racing industry to have a good time,” Celotto said. “It’s very difficult once you know all of that to forget it. If you actually care about horses and animals then it’s very difficult to unknow what you do know.”

While the horse-racing industry and gambling corporations pour millions into large-scale advertising campaigns around Melbourne and the rest of Australia, Coletto says his group’s grassroots, guerrilla tactics are slowly working to turn the public opinion against the sport.

“The racing industry can throw millions of dollars towards promoting horse racing and they’ll get a lot of people there, but a percentage of those people will find out the truth of it and not return.”

Tips and rumours

Oct 24, 2016

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This week the great and the good of live export industry will be gathering at the QT hotel in Canberra (it used to be known as the Lakeside, for those with fond memories of 1980s political TV coverage) to discuss  “Striking the Social Balance: Regulation, Accountability and Profitability”. It’s particularly good timing because it was only last week that independent MP Andrew Wilkie unveiled yet more nauseating footage of horrific abuse of live-exported Australian animals in the Middle East and Malaysia. That only prompted what is now the usual response from the government — that the current regulatory system is fine.

The conference program promises a panel on “addressing the outrage”, to which we could suggest that not causing it in the first place might be good way to address it. Perhaps the live exporters can adjust their conference “theme” — the balance appears to be little regulation, no accountability and an entire emphasis on profitability at the expense of animals. Something to consider over the “Coopers Animal Health Sundowner Welcome BBQ and Drinks” at the end of day one?

New South Wales

Oct 11, 2016

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A key pro-greyhound racing lobby group has celebrated its victory in NSW by threatening witnesses who revealed the industry’s abuse of animals to the McHugh inquiry — the NSW special commission of inquiry that led to the brief ban on the industry.

National Greyhound Racing United describes itself as “a greyhound racing lobby/advocacy group, with the structure of a business that is seeking to unite our industry, educate the public on facts, promote and protect the sport.” Despite appealing for donations on its website, the body is well funded — according to industry sources by a prominent greyhound breeder — with a number of full-time managers across the country.

Understandably, the Baird government’s decision today to reverse its ban on the industry was welcomed with delight by the group on its Facebook page. But the industry’s focus is already turning to payback: yesterday, in anticipation of the ban, the group issued this threat on Facebook:

“The NGRU has been going for almost a year now, so this won’t stop our fight against the animal extremists … whom now have been dealt a massive blow! We will enjoy this victory, then we will turn our attention to those that made submissions in the McHugh report, their crime will not go unpunished.”

greyhounds-image

By focusing on submissions rather than on direct evidence, the threat may avoid s.326 of the NSW Crimes Act, which states that “a person who threatens to do or cause, or who does or causes, any injury or detriment to any person on account of anything lawfully done by a person: (a) as a witness or juror in any judicial proceeding … is liable to imprisonment for 10 years.” The McHugh inquiry notes that only submissions tendered during hearings were received as evidence by the commission.

A number of whistleblowers from within the industry or who had worked with the industry provided information to the NSW government inquiry headed by former High Court Justice Michael McHugh. The McHugh reported revealed that tens of thousands of dogs had been slaughtered in industry “wastage” and that the industry and its NSW body were still covering up incidences of animal abuse and torture while the inquiry was underway. The inquiry received over 800 submissions as well as hearing from 43 witnesses in private hearings. It relied extensively on evidence from witnesses about the massive extent of live-baiting within the industry, including ten witnesses ordered to appear under summons “whom it suspected of being engaged in live baiting, to give evidence in public hearings concerning the practice. Nine of the 10 admitted that they had engaged in this barbaric practice. The other person denied having engaged in the practice, but the Commission is comfortably satisfied that he had. The nine witnesses gave various descriptions of their views of the extent of live baiting in the industry.”

Some public witnesses have since been vilified by elements of the media or by industry sources and have expressed concern about being singled out and targeted by elements of the industry. Death threats were made to NSW Deputy premier Troy Grant by people from within the industry.

 

New South Wales

Oct 11, 2016

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Mike Baird’s cave-in on his greyhound racing ban is one of those moments that makes you think politicians really are as bad as the disengaged, the malcontented, the conspiracy theorists say they are, that they’re every bit the venal mediocrities and grubs many in the community malign them as.

We don’t know the details of Baird’s backdown yet. But, for once, the policy detail is irrelevant. Undoubtedly there’ll be frameworks and programs and safeguards and commitments and evaluations. Jargon like “management” and “proactive” and “zero tolerance” and “world’s best practice” will be deployed. The words comes straight from the managerial and bureaucratic handbooks and often mean nothing; in this instance, they mean less than zero. This is an industry that fundamentally relies on mass slaughter of and cruelty to dogs as its business model, and it will now be allowed to continue. And even if, by magic, you could rehome the thousands of greyhound pups whelped each year that aren’t deemed good enough to run, if you could somehow delete from the industry the hundreds of trainers and owners who brutalise dogs and torture animals via live baiting, that doesn’t change the inherent cruelty of the sport. Dogs get injured, disabled and killed while racing and training, just like horses. Their spines snap, their legs break, their skulls crack. Then they’re put down — or if they’re lucky, face a lifetime of disability and pain.

That’s what greyhound racing does. That’s what will continue no matter what “best practice” or other bureaucratic drivel is put in place, no matter how much greyhound abusers say they “love their dogs” and that “the dogs love to run”. This is an industry that, even more than horse racing, has abuse and death at its very heart. There’s no proactively safeguarding that away.

[The real reason for Murdoch’s war on greyhounds]

But the process here is what is genuinely disturbing. This is, by all possible evidence, a popular ban with voters. More than 60% of voters want an end to greyhound racing, according to the most recent poll; that follows polling from Essential showing support at around 55% in NSW. But the industry, and its media allies, have helped overturn it. News Corp has been in the thick of it, driven by the gambling profits it stands to make from the continuation of the greyhound abuse industry. All things being equal, you’d think a clutch of people who not just opportunistically but systematically abuse, torture and slaughter dogs wouldn’t get much traction in the media. But the media makes money from that abuse, that torture, that slaughter, so things are by no means equal.

Not by a long stretch.

We’ve seen good policy overturned before, of course. We saw Kevin Rudd weaken and eventually abandon what was initially a worthwhile emissions trading scheme, we saw Labor abandon Rudd and the mining tax in the face of a campaign of lies. This is different, of course. The impact isn’t, nebulously, on the national interest, or on future generations, or on quality policymaking — the stuff we obsess, or pretend to obsess, about in Canberra. It’s animals — the dogs that will die at the hands of the abusers who race them. They’ll be forgotten, of course, the lurid names under which they race jotted down in a scrapbook somewhere with the notation “spinal injury in race 4, euthanased”. Just dogs. Who cares? Only the people who undertake the emotionally exhausting work of trying to rehome the often battered and damaged animals that survive the industry, animals abandoned by their owners, confused, scared, poorly socialised, bearing the scars of abuse. Try doing that for a week and see how many of these good people are inner-city, latte-sipping elitists.

Then there’s Luke Foley, the mostly invisible opposition leader in NSW, a mediocrity from a party so wretched that it can only dream of mediocrity, one that became a by-word for corruption and mismanagement in its far-too-long period in power. Foley peddled a middle-class fantasy of working-class authenticity barely one step removed from cloth caps and “it’s grim oop north” cliche, with an assumption that low-income people have some genetic disposition to enjoy hurting animals at its trite, patronising heart. The party that gave us Obeid, Tripodi and Macdonald purporting to stand for the working classes? Seriously.

[Foley gains on ‘Teflon’ Mike as greyhound ban splits NSW Coalition]

But of course it all come down to Mike Baird, a man with the political smarts and policy courage to successfully take electricity privatisation to NSW voters, humiliated over something backed by nearly two-thirds of voters. Interesting what that says, isn’t it, about the relative power of the media elite — relentlessly pro-privatisation (a position I share) — and voters in a city like Sydney. There’ll be much written about how Baird has trashed his credibility; already there are comparisons with Kevin Rudd, another politician on whom voters pinned hopes that he was more than just another politician, that he believed in something and was prepared to stand up for it.

Rudd turned out not merely to be just another politician, but barely even that. Baird, it seems, is the same, just another shitty politician looking after himself. Still, it’s only dogs, eh Mike? Their blood will wash off easily enough. More easily, one suspects, than the damage to your reputation will be repaired.

New South Wales

Oct 10, 2016

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The purchase of a major punting website by News Corp could be behind The Daily Telegraph’s campaign against the Baird government’s greyhound racing ban, as the paper confidently predicts Mike Baird is about to cave in and allow the industry to continue, delivering the company more revenue and commercial opportunities.

The company last week revealed it had acquired punters.com.au, without disclosing the price. Described as about “making racing more awesome”, punters.com.au offers racing news, tips and a form guide on different kinds of animal racing, including greyhound racing. According to marketing blog Mumbrella, in July former Telegraph manager Simon Anderson was appointed to head a gambling division within News Corp as part of a major move into wagering. The company is currently struggling to deal with collapsing print revenues and the slow death of its Foxtel subscription television service. According to News Corp execs quoted by Mumbrella, the company is explicitly seeking to leverage its animal racing reportage both to gain more revenue from readers and sell access to its readership to “wagering clients”.

Ironically, punters.com.au has offered more balanced coverage of the revelations of mass slaughter, animal torture and systemic industry cover-ups that have emerged about the greyhound racing industry than The Daily Telegraph, which for several years had been rated as Australia’s least-trusted newspaper. The paper has run an aggressive campaign against the ban announced by the Baird government in July, and this morning reported that Baird would overturn the ban tomorrow.

Angles of attack from the Telegraph have included claims that vast numbers of dogs would have to be re-homed due to the ban (as opposed to the routine slaughter of dogs that occurs now; another greyhound graveyard was revealed just today), attempts to dispute the details of the McHugh report that prompted the ban, claims the ban was “destroying the lives of ordinary people”, encouraging a revolt by Nationals MPs against the leadership of Deputy Premier Troy Grant, and claims the ban had led to a collapse in Baird’s political fortunes. In fact, polling has shown strong and growing support for the ban; new polling on the weekend showed support for the ban at 64% in NSW.

In none of the Telegraph‘s attack pieces has the company’s looming purchase of punters.com.au been disclosed, despite the obvious financial benefit News Corp stands to make from a continuation of the industry. Indeed, the Telegraph website only ran Herald Sun article on the purchase last week, sourced from a junior reporter at The Australian. There was no disclosure of the purchase or the conflicted position it places the company in in today’s “exclusive” that Baird was about to back down on the ban.

Many writers as The Australian (which has also taken a pro-greyhound racing line) have personal connections to the greyhound industry, but these have been disclosed.

Australia

May 25, 2016

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The University of Melbourne has admitted that its dental school is using live greyhounds for dental surgery studies involving implants before killing the dogs.

A 2014 study involving six greyhounds, which had teeth removed and replaced with implants before being killed “to perform histological and morphometric analysis”, is currently the subject of a Humane Research Australia petition to Melbourne Dental School, where the study, by Ehsan Mellati, Stephen Chen, Helen Davies, Wayne Fitzgerald and Ivan Darby, was performed.

Recently The Age revealed that the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons is using live greyhounds for surgery training, despite a wealth of evidence it is unnecessary for the development of surgical skills. The Melbourne Dental School study was aimed at determining the effectiveness of small differences in implant techniques.

According to a University of Melbourne spokesperson, the school continues to use dogs for dental experiments, telling Crikey that last year and this year the school conducted three research projects involving dogs, during which 21 dogs were killed. The school defends operating on and killing dogs, including in the 2014 study. “While involved in the study you cite, the dogs were monitored and cared for by qualified veterinary staff,” the spokesperson said. “In this case, research was conducted to better understand the healing process following major dental surgery. The results have the potential to enhance patient care and simplify treatment for patients undergoing such procedures in the future. The research required that the dogs jaw be sectioned therefore they had to be humanely euthanised for this to happen.”

The abuse of greyhounds has received considerable coverage since Four Corners exposed horrific abuse by the bulk of greyhound trainers of dogs and other animals in early 2015, although the greyhound racing industry and its supporters within governments have sought to evade accountability ever since.

Melbourne University defends its policy of allowing greyhounds and other animals to be operated on and killed, saying “the university actively seeks techniques that totally or partially replace the use of animals in research wherever possible, and strongly believes that research using animals may only proceed if it is justifiable research for which there is no non-animal alternative”.

The benefits of the 2014 study remain unclear. “There was very little difference in healing outcomes,” was the conclusion of the group that killed six greyhounds after removing their teeth and inserting new ones.

Australia

Mar 9, 2015

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The horrific live-baiting scandal exposed by ABC’s Four Corners sent shockwaves through the greyhound industry and around the country. The footage obtained by Animals Australia and Animal Liberation Queensland revealed the terror that many piglets, possums and other such forms of “bait” have endured for years for the benefit of greyhound racing.

In 2011, Four Corners famously uncovered another story of animal abuse, documenting the cruel conditions Australian cattle are routinely subjected to in Indonesian slaughterhouses.

However, what these episodes reveal most is our readiness to point the finger. They reveal our willingness to (rightfully) blame and shame those perpetrators who carry out animal abuse. In one instance the greyhound industry is put to the sword and in the other, it is the abattoirs of Indonesia. Both stories feature an easily identifiable antagonist, one that is easy to pin down. In both stories our public and political response was swift. Both industries suffered immediately.

But what if the enemy were less easy to detect?

Last year Aussie Farms, an animal rights-based website, was anonymously supplied footage inside Australia’s largest abattoir for pigs, in Corowa. The footage shows workers kicking and excessively prodding pigs into a gas chamber where they are “put to sleep” before slaughter. Once inside, the frightened swine scream and thrash about as they gasp for air. Their screams are reminiscent to those of the baited piglets before the dog devours it.

After the undercover footage of the abattoir was released publicly, abattoir owner and operator Hamsdale Australia was forced to respond. In such a situation a semblance of action is necessary. Predictable PR ensued: “We were distressed and shocked to see the footage … We have taken swift action … [we] maintain a very strong commitment to animal welfare,” and so on. In addition, Hamsdale Australia dismissed the two workers who were seen mishandling the pigs.

Almost a year has passed since the release of this footage, and the Corowa abattoir continues to operate. The site still “processes” approximately 1 million pigs each year. Except for the two men dismissed for pig mistreatment, the company’s methods were well within the law. In fact, carbon dioxide is touted by the industry and the RSPCA as the most “humane” way to slaughter pigs. In the eyes of the law, the sole wrongdoing here was the undercover installation of surveillance cameras.

Although this story achieved considerable attention, it lacked the scale and prominence to affect any immediate change. Liberal Minister for Primary Industries Katrina Hodgkinson expressed no desire to alter the status quo of abattoirs in NSW.

Moreover, the story lacked a clear-cut criminal, forcing us to confront the methods used for producing our food in our country. Although we’re probably not the workers, managers or owners of the Corowa abattoir, we are and remain an integral part of the problem. Economically, we are the demand that has led to the gross mistreatment of our supply. If a story such as this has led to relative inaction, who are we to direct blame when we witness live baiting or the appalling conditions of abattoirs overseas? If we are still willing to consume the products made at an abattoir such as Hamsdale’s, surely we must share a moral blind spot on animal cruelty.

Australia

Feb 18, 2015

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Viewers of Monday night’s Four Corners were shocked to see greyhound trainers using the illegal practice of live baiting, which involves tying live animals such as possums, rabbits and piglets to race posts to motivate the dogs to run faster in races. Ultimately, the animals are mauled to death.

Four Corners, alongside the RSPCA and Animal Liberation Australia, captured two-time Australian greyhound trainer of the year Darren McDonald using live animals for bait, as well as renowned trainer Tom Noble. Paul Anderton, a former steward in the regulation body of Greyhound Racing Victoria, was also found guilty of live-animal baiting.

As a result of the investigation, 10 Victorian and six NSW trainers have been stood down from the industry. South-east of Melbourne, the Tooradin race track has been closed down.

The Four Corners investigative called for a nationwide inquiry into the Australian greyhound racing industry and training methods.

Continue reading “Crikey Clarifier: has greyhound racing gone to the dogs?”

Comments & corrections

Feb 13, 2015

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On Meltwater’s entry into Australia

Group Communications Manager for iSentia Patrick Baume writes: Re. “Watch out, iSentia, the Norwegians are coming” (yesterday). Meltwater’s claim that they are somehow leading the way in “more modern ways of media monitoring” is patently not true. Not only did iSentia’s Mediaportal win the Software and Information Industry Association’s award for best media information and monitoring solution in the world in 2014, it has been providing an online real-time platform to our clients for almost 10 years and last year also became the first in the world to combine social media coverage with broadcast, online and print all in a single platform. We welcome competition from Meltwater as well as the many other options in today’s media intelligence market, and we hope that they are willing to invest in the considerable local capital infrastructure required to capture content from 380+ broadcast outlets across Australia, the extensive human expertise and comprehensive client service that is fundamental to providing a comprehensive media intelligence service, and which unfortunately some previous entrants to the market were unwilling to make.

Animal cruelty not an either-or situation

Director of Campaigns for PETA Australia Jason Baker writes: Re. “Is foie gras really so bad?” (Tuesday). It is grossly unfair and inaccurate to imply that people who oppose foie gras production are “ignoring” the plight of other farmed animals. On the contrary, PETA and other animal protection groups spend 365 days a year combating all forms of cruelty to farmed animals, from gestation crates and battery cages to dehorning and debeaking. The true hypocrites are the chefs and “foodies” who brag about sourcing “free-range” eggs and “grass-fed” beef, but suddenly cry foul at the suggestion that force-feeding — like battery cages and factory feedlots — is cruel and unnecessary.

Foie gras is uniquely cruel because it is produced by intentionally inflicting illness on animals. Like other farmed animals, ducks on foie gras farms are only a few months old when they are slaughtered, but mortality rates are 20 times higher than on conventional duck farms. Undercover footage shot on French foie gras farms (France supplies 74 percent of the foie gras sold worldwide) shows ducks confined individually to cramped, shoe-box-like cages with slits in the top that allow the ducks’ heads to protrude for ease of force-feeding. The cages are so small that the birds can only stand up and sit down. They can’t even turn around or spread a single wing. Some birds have bloody wounds and abscesses, others are covered in vomit. Many pant and gasp for breath because their lungs are being compressed by their grotesquely enlarged livers.

Even if foie gras production weren’t so cruel that it is banned in more than a dozen countries, two wrongs don’t make a right. We must strive to protect all farmed animals, and the best way to do that is by not eating them.

Tender cuts

Thomas Richman writes: Re.”Abbott fights the tender war, while xenophobes hover” (yesterday). If Australia’s domestic car industry was abandoned because our high dollar made it uncompetitive, wouldn’t logic have it that the newly low dollar, now hovering at a more than profitable $0.76 and expected to plateau at that rate, mean that Ford, GM and Toyota will now change their minds and keep alive local manufacture?

Living outside the Bolt-free bubble

Deakin University Emeritus Professor Douglas Kirsner writes: Yes, Glenn Dyer and Helen Razer, Andrew Bolt has been “unusually silent” about Abbott’s leadership woes — except for every day in his blog and every weeknight on 2GB. It’s just  lazy journalism to think the world doesn’t exist beyond  the bubble of the ABC’s Insiders, Q&A, 7.30, and Fairfax. But don’t worry, the Bolt Report is on again Sunday morning on Channel 10.

SPORT

Nov 5, 2014

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Jockey rides Admire Rakti from the racecourse, minutes before the horse’s death from heart failure

With two horses dead after yesterday’s Melbourne Cup and a growing sense among the public of the grisly toll this heavily subsidised industry exacts from animals, you’d have thought the industry itself would start adjusting its messaging to reflect a changing reality — if purely from a public relations point of view.

Not so — or certainly not Peter McGauran, head of the Australian Racing Board. McGauran used to be a Nationals federal politician, and a successful one, having been, at various stages, minister for science, minister for agriculture and minister for the arts under John Howard. These were impressive achievements given McGauran is not, shall we say, over-endowed with intellect, although he shares that common Nationals trait of being a nice bloke regardless of what you may think of his politics.

But McGauran went on the attack over the death of Admire Rakti. He was quoted in The Australian saying, “it is exploitative and ghoulish in the extreme for the animal rights groups to seize on the death of the beloved animal to make a political point”.

It’s not at all clear why McGauran thinks objecting to animal cruelty is “political” — perhaps he shares the traditional hard Left “everything is political” view of the world. Fair enough. But it’s even less clear why using the death of an animal to criticise an industry for its tendency to kill animals is “exploitative”. One would have thought exploitative meant forcing an animal to run until its heart gives out for the wagering and amusement of drunken onlookers. Or that exploitative was doing nothing about the fact that jockeys are regularly killed and injured in the industry and often struggle to be properly compensated. As for the “beloved” animal, it’s hard to see how you could so regularly hurt animals you claim to “love” — one suspects the racing industry loves horses in the same way the car racing industry loves motor vehicles — as splendid assets that can, with the right attention and control, make lots of money, but which are easily replaced if destroyed.

Still, at least McGauran didn’t produce the most absurd line of the whole business. That belongs to Racing Victoria’s chief vet Brian Stewart who — before an autopsy revealed that, indeed, Admire Rakti had died from heart failure brought on by running in the race — was reported as saying the death would be categorised under the splendidly Pythonesque “sudden death syndrome”. Presumably “sudden death syndrome” occurs frequently in the horse racing industry, but of course has absolutely nothing to do with flogging animals until they collapse for their owners’ profit.