27 August 2015
(Private Members Statement, 25 August 2015, Legislative Assembly, NSW Parliament)
Greyhound racing relies on animal cruelty. There is strong support in my electorate and in the wider New South Wales community for the industry to be banned. Racing treats greyhounds as disposable commodities. Each year the greyhound racing industry kills approximately 18,000 healthy dogs. Approximately 8,000 are destroyed because they will not run fast enough to make a profit. An additional 10,000 are destroyed when they retire at three or four years of age because there are not enough homes to adopt them. Greyhounds normally live 12 to 14 years. Some retired greyhounds will be used to breed more pups for the industry but even they will be destroyed once they stop breeding, at the age of approximately six years. Racing and training are dangerous for dogs, with significant risks of injuries including broken hocks or legs and head trauma. Up to 200 injuries are reported each week during races and about five dogs are killed each week as a result of races. Often treatment of injuries is not considered economical to owners.
There have been exposés of trainers administering performance enhancement drugs to dogs, including cocaine, caffeine and anabolic steroids. Racing dogs do not live a happy life when they are not racing; they are not companion animals and are often housed in deplorable conditions in tiny barren pens or kennels, released only to train or race. There are reports that they are underfed to maintain a low racing weight. Last year Four Corners confirmed concerns that live baiting is widely used to train greyhounds. Live baiting involves tying live piglets, rabbits, kittens and native possums to lures, hurling them around tracks at fast speeds while greyhounds chase them and maul them to death. The bait animals suffer excruciating deaths as their bodies are ripped apart. Greyhounds are naturally gentle animals and their trainers often taunt and incite them to chase, attack and kill the bait animal. This is all done to get greyhounds to run faster and bring in a higher return at the races.
Live baiting is illegal yet Four Corners showed that it is used by many high-profile trainers across the country. The problem is that the greyhound racing industry profits from cruelty and profit is the only priority, not animal welfare. The incentive for cruelty will always exist and no amount of tweaking regulation and enforcement procedures will ever provide a guarantee against cruelty. Greyhound racing also profits from human misery. Between 80,000 and 160,000 Australian adults suffer from a significant gambling problem and a further 230,000 to 350,000 people are vulnerable. When gambling becomes a problem there are serious social implications. Homes and jobs are lost and law-abiding citizens engage in criminal behaviour. Family members, including elderly parents and children with no control of or participation in gambling, become victims. People's lives are ruined. Australians spend about $19 billion on gambling products each year, equivalent to 3.1 per cent of household consumption expenditure. For New South Wales the expenditure is $7.15 billion, which is 3.5 per cent of household consumption and higher than any other State or Territory.
Sports betting remains prevalent and has been surrounded by rigging scandals. It is disturbing that this industry received tax breaks with the support of the major parties. Greyhound racing fails to provide any long-term community or economic benefit and it is cruel. Surely Government revenue could have been better spent. I share widespread community concern that the greyhound racing inquiries will do nothing more than increase enforcement and penalties and that cruelty will continue. Cruelty in horse racing must also end. Despite its glamorous image, horse racing profits from cruelty. Horses are subject to intense training and racing which cause physical stress and risks significant painful injuries including torn ligaments and tendons, dislocated joints and bone fractures. Treating these injuries is difficult and expensive, and most injured horses are destroyed.
Outside races and training, horses are stabled where they get no social or environmental mental stimulation; the resultant boredom and mental suffering leads them to develop stereotypical behaviours and to self-mutilate. While less frequent than greyhound racing and horse racing, wild goat racing in rural regions also has a barbaric side. There is no oversight or regulation, and undercover operations have exposed animals being kicked, tormented, overridden, overworked and even dragged by the tips of their horns. Racing a feral animal is impossible to do without tormenting it and causing it to suffer and it should be banned outright. Racing animals is about greed; animal welfare can never be guaranteed because cruelty is profitable. As a humane society we should not permit, let alone support, such treatment of voiceless sentient beings and it is time for the archaic practice of racing animals to end.