It has become apparent that some drivers have recently launched a petition opposing the recent changes in the use of whips. There are also rumours circulating suggesting that some form of strike action is being considered by some in the near future.
The Trainers & Drivers Association does not support these proposals, and would like to outline the reasons why.
Firstly, it appears that some drivers are taking out their frustrations on members of the RIU and JCA. Neither of these organisations are responsible for the introduction of the new Rules, they are merely trying to enforce rules introduced by HRNZ as a result of pressure from powerful animal welfare groups, and to fall into line with overseas jurisdictions, including our closest neighbour and major market for our product. In fact, the Association is of the opinion that the RIU has been more than fair in its’ regime of education, as opposed to penalising even the regular repeat offenders. However, not surprisingly, their patience is being sorely tested by a small minority.
For the benefit of those out there that are of the opinion that we shouldn’t bow to the animal welfare pressure groups and ‘greenies’, I’ll share with you a ‘tweet’ by Chloe Swarbrick, a Green Member of Parliament, that has been sent to me. She writes, “I don’t pretend to know heaps about sports, but if animal cruelty is an innate part of a sport…Maybe we shouldn’t do that sport.” It’s pretty obvious that the Government doesn’t have any intention of shutting racing down, but these people don’t need any encouragement to make life difficult.
From all reports, the new rules have been widely praised by many, and it is obvious to all that they have markedly improved the look of our Industry. The fact is that, whether we like it or not, what has been the acceptable norm in the past, is now not acceptable to the general public, or as we know them, punters who are the life-blood of our Industry.
As far as the threat of industrial action is concerned, this would be a futile exercise and, as mentioned above, not supported by the Trainers & Drivers Assn. for two main reasons. First of all, it will change nothing, apart from costing the Industry turnover, and damaging much of the benefits of the resurgence we currently enjoying. If a few participants are happy to see turnovers and, consequently stakes, go down as a result of this, then they need only blame themselves for adversely affecting everyone else.
Second, it may be of interest to know that, since the Rule was introduced, there have been three New Zealand records broken, and turnover on harness racing has increased 25%.
As an aside, it seems obvious that the Australian galloping authorities are taking the matter pretty seriously when they dish out a $50k fine and a 13 day suspension to a jockey who broke their rules in the Melbourne Cup!