In a huge blow for the racing industry, New South Wales Premier Mike Baird announced plans to end greyhound racing in the state.
It comes after an ABC Four Corners report exposed widespread animal cruelty in the sport including live baiting. That investigation led to a Special Commission of Inquiry report into the industry and the findings were damning.
It found there have been mass killings of greyhounds, with at least 50,000 killed because they were considered too slow for racing.
The practice of live baiting was also highlighted, which involves live animals such as rabbits used as lures for the dogs to chase in practice.
According to the findings, the greyhound industry is not capable of addressing the huge problems in the sport.
As a result, Premier Baird says his government has no choice but to end the sport from July 2017.
“Greyhound racing has been banned in many countries and many states of the US and is legal in only eight countries around the world. NSW will be the first state in Australia to ban it,” Mr Baird said.
“Over the coming months, we will consult with the industry to help minimise the pain as best we can for the innocent industry participants as we work towards an orderly industry shutdown.”
Greyhound racing own worst enemy. Despicable practices. But feel sorry for the good people in the game. Sadly they are easy target for Gov.
— Ray Gatt (@Gatty54) July 7, 2016
While the Premier said he did feel sympathy for the innocent trainers, he said his government could not stand by and allow the mistreatment of animals to continue.
There was mixed reaction to the news, with some cynical about the motives behind the decision.
I give it 6 months until news breaks of a Wentworth Park development…
And for the record, most involved in greyhound racing love animals.
— Ben Way (@BenWayFOX) July 7, 2016
RSPCA NSW is ecstatic to announce that Greyhound Racing will be BANNED in NSW. pic.twitter.com/s6LMNr4pnK
— RSPCA NSW (@RSPCANSW) July 7, 2016
Animal rights groups were delighted by the announcement, and there’s now a feeling that other states may be forced to follow suit.
"This will put a huge amount of pressure on Victoria to do the same thing."
– Neil Mitchell on news NSW is banning greyhound racing.
— 3AW Melbourne (@3AW693) July 7, 2016
The decision came as a major disappointment to the industry which will leave trainers and clubs across the state in limbo.
Late on Thursday, the ACT Government announced it would also end greyhound racing with ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr making a statement on his Facebook page.
“Having had an initial look at the NSW report, we agree with the decision of the NSW Government,” he said.
“There is no future for this industry in the ACT.”
“A significant number of trainers that race in Canberra are based in NSW. The Government cannot continue to support an industry that is turning a blind eye to the sort of behaviour and cruelty uncovered by the Special Commission of Inquiry.” Mr Barr said.
Read NSW Premier Mike Baird’s full announcement below.
In response to widespread illegal and unconscionable activity, including the slaughtering of tens of thousands of dogs, I can today announce that NSW is putting an end to greyhound racing.
More than a year ago, we established a Special Commission of Inquiry into the greyhound industry after very disturbing reports emerged of cruelty to animals and other illegal activities.
We have now received the report of the Commission, conducted by former High Court Judge Michael McHugh, and the findings are damning. A link to the whole report is below, but some of the findings include:
• The mass killing of greyhounds. The report found, “In NSW in the last 12 years… somewhere between 48,891 and 68,448 dogs were killed because they were considered too slow to pay their way or were unsuitable for racing.” In the industry, they call this “wastage”. It’s not wastage: it is the unnecessary slaughtering of tens of thousands of healthy dogs.
• The widespread practice of “live baiting”. This is where live animals, like rabbits, are used as bait to be chased by dogs in training sessions. The report found that, even though this is already illegal and carries heavy penalties, “a trainer, who admitted to engaging in live baiting, testified that about 10-20% of trainers engaged in live baiting.”
• The systemic deception of the public concerning the numbers of deaths and injuries of dogs. It is estimated that 180 greyhounds per year sustain catastrophic injuries during races such as skull fractures or broken backs that result in their immediate death. But the commission found that “Greyhound Racing NSW had adopted a policy of deliberately misreporting the extent of injuries suffered by greyhounds at racetracks.”
• The industry is not capable, in the short or medium term, of reforming. The report found that “it appears unlikely that the issue of the large scale killing of healthy greyhounds by the industry can be addressed successfully in the future.” In fact, the report found that, “such is the culture of the industry and some of its leaders that it is no longer, if it ever was, entitled to the trust of the community.”
One of the issues we have had to wrestle with is the positive impact of the greyhound racing industry. There are over 1000 direct jobs in the industry and nearly 6000 registered owners of greyhounds. Dog racing can be an important part of the social fabric of regional towns. And, of course, having a punt on the dogs over a few beers is good fun for many people.
So, as Mr McHugh asked, do such benefits of the dog racing industry outweigh the shortcomings?
Based on this report, the Government believes they do not.
Greyhound racing has been banned in many countries and many states of the US and is legal in only eight countries around the world. NSW will be the first state in Australia to ban it.
Over the coming months, we will consult with the industry to help minimise the pain as best we can for the innocent industry participants as we work towards an orderly industry shutdown. We will develop a strategy to work with the RSPCA to manage the welfare of existing greyhounds. And the transition arrangement for Greyhound Racing NSW assets (like greyhound racing tracks) will ensure they are used for open public space, alternative sports facilities or other community use.
I feel much empathy for innocent trainers and those who will lose their job or hobby as a result of this. And I understand the disappointment of people who enjoy having a punt on the dogs. But we simply cannot and will not stand-by and allow the widespread and systemic mistreatment of animals.