(Contribution to Debate, Tuesday 04 April 2017, Legislative Assembly NSW Parliament)
The Greyhound Racing Bill ends any prospect that greyhound dogs and other animals will be spared from considerable suffering at the hands of a cruel and archaic industry funded by gambling and government subsidies.
The Greyhound Racing Bill overturns the ban on greyhound racing due to commence on the 1st of July this year, while introducing some reforms so that it looks like serious animal welfare problems with the industry will be fixed.
Sure, the new provisions in this bill aimed at promoting welfare represent an improvement on the status quo, but cruelty is a fundamental part of the greyhound racing business model and no tinkering at the edges to achieve ‘best practice’ will ever eliminate this.
Owning and training a very fast dog results in massive profit and the incentive remains to do whatever it takes to produce one.
The majority of greyhounds bred are considered not fast enough and they will continue to be discarded. Of the 97,783 greyhounds bred in New South Wales in the last 12 years, the commission estimated that between 48,891 and 68,448 were killed because they were considered uncompetitive for racing.
Cruel training methods like live baiting will continue. These have been illegal for a long time as has keeping other animals for greyhound training and this did nothing to stop the practice.
Horrendous injuries during racing and training like broken hocks and legs and head trauma can’t be stopped. Up to 200 injuries are reported and around five dogs are killed during races each week because treating injuries is not considered economical. Where treatment is used, it is often painful D-I-Y methods to avoid paying veterinary surgeons.
The majority of greyhounds that survive this process are destroyed on retirement, which is at three or four years because there are not enough homes to adopt them. Some will be used to breed more pups for the industry before they stop breeding at around five or six years when they are destroyed. Greyhounds normally live 12 to 14 years.
Greyhounds are not companion animals to their trainers or owners, they are racing machines and if they have no chance of winning, their owners do not keep them.
Why should we believe that codes of practice, stronger offences, mandatory registration and greater enforcement powers will make an adequate and significant difference to this industry?
Commitments to breeding quotas seem to have been dropped after the Greyhound Industry Alliance said they would limit the number of dogs available for racing and impact on the financial viability of the industry.
I quote the former Premier Mike Baird in his speech in the house last year on the Greyhound Racing Prohibition Bill:
“This industry has shown itself to be unable to change its practices and one that prefers cover up to reform.”
Animal welfare workers have been raising concerns about the greyhound racing industry covering up extreme cruelty for decades and nothing was ever done until undercover exposés got aired on television and horrified the wider population.
The Special Commission of Inquiry established to look into this industry in response to the exposes involved a thorough inquiry with private and public hearings, over 2,000 submissions, 151,000 pages of evidence, and 115 hours of recordings. The conclusions were substantially damning with the commission resolving that no reform could enable the greyhound racing industry to operate without extensive cruelty.
Greyhound racing also relies on human misery and loss with its entire existence contingent on gambling. This is an important problem with the industry that has been forgotten in much of the debate. Gambling is addictive and destructive and often affects already disadvantaged people. A truly civilised society does not promote suffering and torture of animals for the sake of gambling.
Greyhound racing has nothing to do with battlers and the wider population has no interest in this cruel industry. Over the last decade, attendances at tracks declined by an average 26 per cent and participation in the industry has declined by about 20 per cent. Greyhound racing is only legal in eight countries in the world and operates in only five states in the United States. Last year the government told us that regardless of the ban, greyhound racing will soon end on its own.
I cannot express my disappointment that the government is now overturning, what I and many others believe was, one of its best decisions. It showed compassion for live sentient beings who cannot advocate for themselves or vote. It showed a move towards a more humane society.
Perhaps things would have been different had the opposition chosen to treat this issue with respect for animals and their right to a life free of torture and suffering rather than with political opportunism. Addressing animal cruelty should get multi-partisan support and I worry about the many other industries that continue to operate based on pain and suffering to increase profit, such as factory chicken and pork farming, which are particularly cruel. I hope that we can work together to improving these industries.
The government is spending $11 million to fund these greyhound racing so-called reforms – money that could be spent on more important infrastructure and services like schools, parks and the arts. While the reforms could result in small improvements to the industry, they will never change the culture and I suspect any improvements will be temporary.
The greyhound racing industry breeds thousands of dogs, killing most because they are too slow; it keeps racing dogs in seclusion and subjects them to constant and cruel training including live baiting. Greyhound racing dogs suffer horrible injuries on the track and many get destroyed. Most retired dogs are killed because there aren’t enough homes for them, while some will be turned into breeding machines before the same fate. All to support a gambling industry!
Greyhound racing has no place in a modern and socially progressive society.
Why this house cannot end such a cruel practice is a testament to the struggles of contemporary principle-free politics.
I oppose the bill.
See full debate HERE