NSW NATIONALS MP Michael McCormack has slammed the NSW Coalition government’s “hasty” decision to ban the greyhound racing industry from July 1 next year, including country tracks.
NSW Premier Mike Baird and the State’s National Party leader Troy Grant announced the State government was acting to protect animal welfare as a priority, through the industry’s orderly shutdown.
It came after a damning report found that between 48,000 and 68,000 greyhounds – or at least half of all greyhounds bred to race – were killed in the past 12 years because they were deemed uncompetitive.
It also said up to 20 per cent of trainers engaged in live baiting and 180 greyhounds a year sustained “catastrophic injuries” during races, like skull fractures and broken backs that resulted in their immediate deaths.
Mr McCormack said there was no doubt the report was “damning” but rather than shutting down the entire industry, due to a “select few offenders” the NSW Government should have considered tougher regulations before revoking the sport’s “social license”.
He expressed concerns for the loss of economic activity and the employment and social benefits of country greyhound race-tracks in his Riverina electorate like at Temora and the interests of the majority of greyhound trainers who “treat their animals like members of their family”.
Mr McCormack said the NSW government should have conducted proper community and stakeholder consultation before making its shock decision.
“Decisions made in haste are not good decisions,” he said.
“This decision is far too hasty and will send a shiver down the spine of anyone involved in the beef industry or growing and producing cattle for the live exports market.
“Which industry will they target next?
“Where does it start and where does it stop?
“Will they investigate the trots or shut down thoroughbred racing?”
“Little by little the minorities are winning and soon we’ll be left with a nation of do-gooders.”
Mr McCormack said he’d spoken to local trainers and industry stakeholders in his electorate and they shared his outrage at the ban being imposed on them
He said the decision was aimed to appease left-leaning city-centric voters at the expense of those in regional NSW.
“Keyboard warriors, latte-sipping, long sock-wearing elitists from the north-shore who live life through rose coloured glasses and have never been to a greyhound track, or would not know a greyhound trainer who treats their animals like a member of their own family, are cheering this decision on,” he said.
On Facebook, Mr McCormack said one of his first tasks working as a journalist in Wagga Wagga at The Daily Advertiser in November 1981 was previewing greyhound meetings, covering race-days or nights and penning a weekly column.
He said across the Riverina he found a group of dedicated, animal-loving people existed who owned, trained and bred greyhounds and “these were hardy souls”.
“They walked their dogs, fed them well and cared for them as though they were part of their family,” he said.
“They looked after them well when the dogs’ racing days were over.
“Such people received little financial reward from the sport but the money meant little anyway – they did it for the love of it.”
Mr McCormack said the Baird government’s decision would shock the entire racing industry, which had often come under attack from “noisy animal liberationists”.
He said NSW banned jumps racing in 1997 and “disgraceful” anti-racing protests were held each Melbourne Cup and had to be seen to be believed.
“I do wonder about where we are headed as a society with decisions such as today’s edict,” he said.
“Governments are not there to shut industries down and put in place adjustment packages to ensure participants go on permanent welfare going forward.
“It is acknowledged there are some involved in dog racing – albeit a very small percentage – who do not act appropriately or in the best welfare interests of greyhounds.
“But why should the whole industry have to suffer the consequences?”
Mr McCormack said more regulation was needed but not a blanket ban.
“Surely tighter, independent and stricter monitoring would have been a better course of action than to forthwith stop a decades-old industry in which the vast majority of its stakeholders are good, honest, decent people who have only ever wanted the best for the dogs in their care,” he said.
Live animal exports social licence expert Katherine Teh-White – managing director of Futureye - said the NSW government’s actions demonstrated the risks any industry had to face, when it lost community support or its social licence to operate.
Ms Teh-White said after the ABC Four Corners program expose issues with live baiting in greyhound racing last year, the industry had more than a year to demonstrate it could reform its culture and deal with the animal welfare issues properly.
But she said the sport couldn’t overcome some of the critical barriers which would have required them to start to working with their biggest critics, like the RSPCA and Animals Australia.
“They needed to show not only they had the technical skills to solve the welfare problems but that they were willing to be made accountable by their critics – so the community could start to trust them again,” she said.
“There are a lot of internal barriers to doing this and industries need help to accept and manage these complex cultural changes.
“There is just as much work to do internally as there is externally.”
Ms Teh-White said the NSW government’s decision was a warning to all other industries that handled animals, whether for racing or food production.
“It’s vital to demonstrate that you’re addressing your way of operating, creating the cultural change required to deal with the humane treatment of animals and re-building your social licence with the activists and the public,” she said.
“The damning inquiry findings show the internal cultural change is very hard to do and is often the underlying reason industries fail.”
Animals Australia and RSPCA Australia have also pushed an ongoing agenda to ban live animal exports, putting the trade under constant pressure to maintain its “social license” to operate from ongoing revelations on ABC television of mistreatment in export markets; most recently Vietnam.
Reaction to the ABC investigation into using live animals for baiting in the greyhound industry saw sponsors withdraw commercial support for the sport and State government inquiries held in different States and from governing bodies.