On 7 July, the NSW government announced it would ban greyhound racing from 2017. This was a huge win for the Greens and the many animal welfare activists who have been campaigning hard for a racing ban for years.
The policy announcement came after the Premier received a copy of the long-awaited Special Commission of Inquiry report into the greyhound racing industry in NSW. The report is a heartbreaking and brutal read, detailing the widespread practice of ‘live-baiting’, and the killing of up to 68,000 dogs over 12 years simply because they weren’t fast enough. The Commissioner, the Hon. Michael McHugh AC QC, makes a compelling case for why the industry can’t be reformed, including evidence that on-track death and injuries on tracks were not being accurately reported, even up to this year.
Under the government’s proposal, greyhound racing would be banned from 1 July next year, with the racing tracks across the state converted for other purposes. The Premier has stated that any crown land will remain community spaces, and we will certainly be holding him to account.
Thousands of dogs will need to be rehomed — an effort I hope Greens members will partake in! We are working hard to take euthanasia and export of dogs off the table as options for these greyhounds. We are also supportive of a transition package for workers affected by this decision. Many of these tracks in rural and regional NSW were slated for closure even before the ban was announced, which makes this an opportunity for retraining and investment in new jobs.
The fight is not over
The legislation will come to parliament in the coming weeks, but the fight is not over yet. NSW Labor has, in a moment of disgraceful political opportunism, opted to oppose the ban, siding with the cruel industry and its allies in the gaming world. Labor cannot claim to care about animal welfare if it maintains that the greyhound racing industry is viable after reading the Special Commission of Inquiry report.
Various NSW Nationals MPs, including the former Minister for Primary Industries Katrina Hodgkinson, have been speaking out openly in opposition to the ban and in favour of a free vote for MPs who support the industry. On a federal level, even Barnaby Joyce has spoken up in support of the cruel greyhound racing industry.
What’s more, the greyhound industry lobby and its supporters have been threatening legal action and more delaying tactics.
We know that this industry is unsustainable and incapable of reform, and we know that the time to end greyhound racing is now.
I am so proud that the Greens have been absolutely essential to the fight to shut down greyhound racing in New South Wales. My dear friend, the late Greens MP John Kaye led the charge by establishing a NSW Parliamentary Inquiry into the industry back in 2013. While the final report of the inquiry was disappointing, Dr Kaye submitted a dissenting report highlighting the widespread killing of dogs and saying the industry was untenable in its current state. In early 2015, an explosive Four Corners investigation found widespread evidence of live-baiting, which led to the establishment of a Special Commission of Inquiry in March of that year. Finally, the Commissioner handed down his report in June 2016.
To ban greyhound racing in NSW, we will need to keep the pressure on. The Greens have been hosting rallies and events in conjunction with animal welfare groups to show our support for the ban, and tell the Labor party and all MPs that shutting down this industry is the right thing to do. (Watch the ABC TV report on the 17 July rally here!)
Long-term, what we need is a federal ban on greyhound racing, but in the first instance we must ensure this ban goes ahead in NSW.
We can win this. The government is now on side — we need to ensure that they don’t back down. Take action to show your support for shutting down greyhound racing in NSW today.
Dr Mehreen Faruqi MLC is the Greens NSW spokesperson for Animal Welfare. Image by Marianne Perdomo, CC-BY-SA-2.0