(Contribution to Debate, Thursday 06 April 2017, Legislative Assembly NSW Parliament)
The Greyhound Racing Bill reverses a compassionate government commitment made in response to a strong community campaign to end the cruel and archaic greyhound racing industry and move to a more humane society that does not treat animals as dispensable products or promote problem gambling.
The Greyhound Racing Bill overturns the ban on greyhound racing due to commence on the 1st of July this year and introduces a number of reforms to try to reduce the suffering of animals that has long been a part of the industry’s modus operandi.
It is true that many 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 commission or committee pushing ‘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 industry kills massive numbers of bred greyhounds because they are not fast enough for the track. In the last 12 years, 97,783 greyhounds were bred in New South Wales and between 48,891 and 68,448 were estimated to have been killed for being uncompetitive. Whole-of-lifecycle tracking and bonds cannot guarantee a stop to this mass euthanasia, particularly in an industry notorious for cover ups.
Cruel training methods like live baiting and keeping other animals for greyhound training have been illegal for a long time yet the Special Commission of Inquiry found the practice to be endemic. Stronger penalties will not be a deterrent and there will always be a way to escape oversight.
It seems the government accepts that horrendous injuries during racing and training, like broken hocks and legs and head trauma, can’t be stopped with dogs killed following such injuries unlikely to be defined as “unnecessary kills” under the bill. Each week up to 200 injuries occur in the industry with five dogs killed as a result. This will continue.
Greyhounds are retired at three or four years of age and it will be impossible for more than a small few to get adopted. There are only a limited number of homes willing and able to adopt a pet and pounds and shelters across the state already put thousands of dogs down each year because homes cannot be found.
And how will greyhounds forced to become breeding machines before they stop breeding and are killed at five or six years be treated under the new regime?
I don’t believe the new provisions will make an adequate and considerable difference to the welfare of animals in this industry.
Animal welfare workers have been raising concerns about the greyhound racing industry covering up extreme cruelty for decades.
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.”
The Special Commission of Inquiry undertook a thorough investigation with private and public hearings, over 2,000 submissions, 151,000 pages of evidence, and 115 hours of recordings and concluded that no reform could enable the greyhound racing industry to operate without extensive cruelty.
Often forgotten in the debate is greyhound racing’s reliance on human misery and loss from gambling. 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, attendance at tracks has 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 amid a heated media campaign.
Addressing animal cruelty should get multi-partisan support and I worry that future governments will be too scared to show leadership against other cruel industries like factory chicken and pork farming. I would like us all to work together in the future against cruelty and suffering.
The government is spending $11 million to fund these greyhound racing 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.
Greyhound racing is cruel and will remain cruel; it has no place in a modern and socially progressive society.
Why this house cannot end such senseless suffering demonstrates the lack of principles in contemporary politics.
I oppose the bill.
See full debate HERE