24 August 2016
(Debate, 23 August 2016, Legislative Assembly, NSW Parliament)
Animal advocates have been saying for decades that greyhound racing is based on systemic cruelty that cannot be remedied, and this was recently confirmed in the Government's Special Commission of Inquiry into the Greyhound Racing Industry in NSW report. I congratulate the Premier and the Government for taking leadership in response to this report and taking the necessary step to ban this cruel industry. I welcome decisions in this House that are based on compassion for the voiceless and I hope we will see more of it.
The Greyhound Racing Prohibition Bill 2016 will close the greyhound racing industry in New South Wales on 1 July next year. Greyhounds are raced for profit and this has long been at the expense of animal welfare. There is no question about the significant suffering endured by racing dogs, dogs bred for racing and other animals used in training. Greyhound racing treats animals as mere disposable commodities. The special commission of inquiry calculated that between 48,891 and 68,448 greyhounds bred for racing in the past 12 years were killed because they would not run fast enough to make a profit. The industry refers to these pups as "wastage"—a term that I and many of my constituents find highly offensive.
Most dogs that make it to the racetrack are destroyed when they retire at three or four years of age because there are not enough homes to adopt them. Some retired greyhounds will be used to breed more pups for the industry, but even they will be destroyed once they stop breeding, at around five to six years of age. Greyhounds should normally live for 12 to 14 years. Greyhounds suffer during racing and training from injuries such as broken hocks or legs and head trauma. Up to 200 injuries are reported each week during races and around five dogs are killed each week at races because treating their injuries is not considered economical. The special commission identified that when dogs are treated many trainers use cheap and painful do-it-yourself methods to avoid paying veterinary surgeons. There have been exposés of trainers administering performance-enhancing drugs to dogs, including cocaine, caffeine and anabolic steroids.
Four Corners confirmed concerns that live baiting is used widely to train greyhounds. Live baiting involves tying live piglets, rabbits, kittens and native possums to lures and 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. Indeed, the special commission of inquiry found that 10 per cent to 20 per cent of trainers used live baiting and that large sections of the industry would have known it occurred without stopping it. Some trainers continue to defend the practice as an important part of greyhound training.
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 to race. There are reports that they are underfed to maintain a low racing weight. The special commission found a lack of interest by the industry in socialising and rehoming greyhounds as these approaches fail to produce dogs that race. The problem is that the greyhound racing industry profits from cruelty and profit is the 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 relies on human misery and loss, with its entire existence reliant on gambling. This is an important problem with the industry that has been forgotten in much of the debate we have heard tonight.
Gambling on racing is neither glamorous nor socially engaging, and contributes little to the community. 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. I acknowledge that there are some in this industry who care for their dogs, and that this ban will require them to make a difficult transition. The industry has let these people down and made the ban necessary in order to end significant suffering. The problems within this industry are systemic and cannot be fixed. I agree that there is no tenable option but to shut it down.
Before concluding I place on record my disappointment with the Opposition for its vocal opposition to this ban. The special commission of inquiry report was substantially damning and was firm in its conclusion that no reform could enable the greyhound racing industry to operate without extensive cruelty. The report only confirmed what animal groups have been reporting to us in this place, and what successive media reports have been exposing for years. A no-brainer decision like this should be above politics. Animal cruelty will not end without multi-partisan support.
An important part of this bill is that it sends a message to industries that use animals for profit that the community and Parliament will not tolerate animal cruelty. I acknowledge and congratulate the Federal Government on its move to ban animal testing for cosmetics, which sends a similar message. Industries must start to look at how they treat animals and significantly improve animal welfare from within—including through measures such as banning sow stalls and farrowing crates in pork farming, and battery hen cages in egg production. 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 I welcome the end to the archaic practice of racing greyhounds. I commend the bill to the House.
Read Full Debate HERE