11th October 2014
Anger is rising south of Brisbane over a greyhound racing track that, opponents say, will perpetuate animal cruelty and add to Logan's problem gambling issues.
About 200 people, with a number of ex-racing greyhounds in tow, gathered at the Cronulla Park site at Slacks Creek on Saturday to protest the $12 million development, which was given the green light in March. The protest organiser, Animal Liberation Queensland greyhound campaigner Hayley Cotton, said a petition to stop the development, which had already been approved by Logan City Council, had gained about 10,000 signatures.
"Most [racing] greyhounds don't live beyond three or four years of age because when they're too slow they simply get put down or sent to the vets to be used as blood donors and all sorts of horrible things," she said.
Among the protesters was a large collection of greyhounds, seemingly enjoying each others' company while their owners waved placards at passing traffic. "They're all rescues, so all the greyhounds you see here today are all ex-racers," Ms Cotton said. "They've all got their own story, but most of them were sent to vets to be euthanised or their trainers didn't want them, so they called a rescue group.
"But they make great pets and that's what we want people to see – that they are really sensitive, loving dogs and we want to change that perception of them as racing machines and only here for profit-making purposes."
Queensland Greyhound Racing Board chairman Michael Byrne said the dogs' welfare was central to those involved in the industry. "Greyhounds are not unlike any other animal, racing or otherwise. They're loved by the participants and the people who own them," he said. "…Greyhounds have to be in the care of a responsible person from the time they're born to the time they finish racing and go into retirement.
"Across the eastern seaboard, the three states have spent a lot of money on retirement adoption programs for greyhounds.
"Large properties have been bought in Victoria and New South Wales and in Queensland we're looking at a number of options, including partnering with other animal welfare organisations to have greyhounds cared for after they retire."
Mr Byrne said the track would have wide benefits for the Logan community. "Logan's a growth area and the state and local governments are committed to tourism, to attracting people, and the greyhound track from a community point of view will be a major sporting venue," he said.
But Ms Cotton said Logan already had a significant gambling problem, to which the addition of a greyhound track would only exacerbate. "We think this land could be used for something a little more socially responsible, like a sporting field or something the community will actually get some benefit from," she said.
Mr Byrne said he did not believe Logan's problems were any different to any other developing community, so he did not think such a venue would adversely affect the city. "One's got to remember that sporting venues aren't necessarily gambling dens," he said on Saturday. "You've got the Caulfield Guineas on today in Melbourne and there are tens of thousands of people there who are out for a party and a good time.
"Most of them may not even have a bet on the day. It's part of community welfare and community social life."
The Bligh government first considered the site in 2007 and the development of the state-owned land was given council approval on February 2, 2011. Comment was sought from Logan mayor Pam Parker, who told Fairfax Regional Media earlier this year the track was "the wrong image for our city". But her deputy, Russell Lutton, said he supported the project and, even if the council was convinced to stop the project, it would be powerless to do so.
"The thing is, it's a state government project – it's state funding and it's state government land," he said. "…I don't know what the big deal is, honestly. It's an old waste tip site that has very limited use, but this is a pretty good use for it."
Cr Lutton scoffed at suggestions it would be a disastrous development for problem gamblers. "There's the Brisbane Lions club within about a kilometre with a couple of hundred pokies, there's another licensed club not far away in Logan Central," he said. "There's no licensed club going in [at Cronulla Park], there's no extra pokies and there will be no extra races because all they're going to be doing is taking a race day off Ipswich and a race day off Albion Park."
Racing Minister Steve Dickson was not available for interview.
by Cameron Atfield, Brisbane Times