In 2015, Greyhound Racing came to public attention in a way it never had before following the appalling revelations of widespread live baiting in the greyhound racing industry that was exposed by Animals Australia, the RSPCA and Four Corners as occurring in at least three states on the eastern seaboard of Australia.
In NSW, on the motion of the late Dr John Kaye, the NSW government commissioned the Special Commission of Inquiry into Greyhound Racing, headed by Michael McHugh AC QC, which is a seminal report in anyone’s language and comprehensively laid it out for all Australians the illegal, immoral and horrific practices that are the core of the cruelty that is inherent to greyhound racing.
The McHugh report found that the levels of injury and 'wastage' in the industry cannot be overcome, estimating that up to 68 000 dogs were killed in New South Wales in the last 12 years, simply because they never were or no longer were capable of being competitive racing dogs that could make money for their owners and trainers and for those who gamble on the races.
The problems that are documented in the McHugh report – live baiting, doping, horrific injuries and horrendous levels of euthanasia or ‘wastage’ are also part of the industry across Australia.
Following the live baiting scandal, the Victorian government commissioned investigations into greyhound racing in Victoria by the Racing Integrity Commissioner and the Chief Veterinary Officer, despite the practices apparently occurring on their watch.
The 2015 Victorian Racing Integrity Commissioner’s report into the industry estimated that as many as 4,000 greyhounds are killed every year in Victoria before their fifth birthday - that’s 48,000 in the last 12 years. He called for an Inquiry into it, which the government has refused to commission. Even the 2016 Greyhound Racing Victoria annual report admitted to more than 3,000 greyhounds having been ‘euthanised’ in the previous twelve months.
Together with New South Wales that makes 116 000 greyhounds killed in the last 12 years in Victoria and New South Wales alone, all for the sake of a bet.
These figures are shocking and completely unacceptable. It is why former NSW Premier, Mike Baird, initially took the decision to end greyhound racing in NSW.
Despite the terrible back flip by the former NSW premier and the recent repeal of the legislation that would have seen the end of greyhound racing in NSW – a decision that Greens MLC Dr Mehreen Faruqi said ‘would have been the most significant animal welfare reform in New South Wales—one that could have reverberated across the nation’, the industry is on notice and Greens around Australia and animal welfare groups are continuing to campaign for an end to greyhound racing in Australia.
In the face of indifferent state governments and oppositions, it is a daunting task, but the industry is now being closely watched by the community and it will be unable to reform due to the inherent and insurmountable problems of illegality, cruelty and needless killing.
The greyhound racing industry and its government backers across the Australian states talk up their various greyhound adoption programs as if they are or will be the answer to the horrendous levels of ‘wastage’ that continue in the industry.
On 9 April, I spoke at the #ShutItDownNationalDayOfAction in Melbourne along with speakers from the Coalition for the Protection of Greyhounds, Animals Australia, the Greyhound Equality Society, The Animal Justice Party and Gumtree Greys.
I mentioned that Greyhound Adoption Program (GAP), which is sponsored by Greyhound Racing Victoria, had marked its 21st birthday in March and claimed that in those 21 years 7,000 greyhounds had been adopted through GAP. However, if using the estimation by the Racing Integrity Commissioner that 4,000 greyhounds are euthanised in Victoria every year, then that would be 84,000 greyhounds killed in those 21 years, and only 7,000 adopted. That is 11 times more greyhounds have been killed than are adopted.
While I support greyhound adoption programs, in particular those run by greyhound rescue and welfare groups, the truth is that adoption programs are not able to go anywhere near dealing with the inherent problem of continuing overbreeding and killing of greyhounds.
Recently, the Victorian community has been further shocked by the Minister for Racing and GRV jointly funding an Easter School Holidays Kids Program to the tune of $126,000 at 10 greyhound racing venues across Victoria. It is appalling that the state government and the Minister for Racing should be promoting greyhound racing as a ‘fun activity’ to children.
Greyhound Racing is not a fun activity. It is responsible for the killing of thousands of greyhounds every year, simply because they don't win races. It is also totally inappropriate for the state government to be encouraging children to attend events that are conducted solely of the purpose of gambling.
The Victorian government and Minister for racing should be acting on the damning evidence that is so readily available and show leadership by ending greyhound racing in Victoria instead of promoting it to children.
Australia is one of the few countries that continue to allow greyhound racing. It is banned in 40 states of the USA and Argentina was the most recent country to announce a ban.
Greyhound racing is a blight on the Australian community. It should be ended across Australia.
Sue Pennicuik is a Victorian MP and the spokesperson for animal issues.