NSW Premier Mike Baird announced today (Tuesday) that the government would take back the power to regulate the state’s greyhound racing industry and make it “the cleanest in the country.”
Mr Baird has appointed heavy-hitter, former NSW Labor Premier Morris Iemma to chair the new independent Greyhound Industry Reform Panel amid evidence of widespread live-baiting, euthanasia and corrupt gambling in the industry.
Other panel members on the five-person panel will include the RSPCA and industry and government representatives.
The Panel has been armed with powers to enforce:
- Mandatory life bans and increased jail terms for live baiting
- Registering all greyhounds for their entire lives
- Substantially increased resources for enforcement and prosecution as well as animal welfare
- Zero tolerance for animal cruelty
- The elimination of avoidable injury
Sydney University lecturer Dr Peter Chen, author of Animal Welfare in Australia Politics and Policy, said the new panel was “a bloated response’ to a small, scattered industry.
He said it was a clear admission that the previous approach, where the industry had been allowed to self regulate, had failed.
“It’s a top flight regulatory agency to regulate this tiny little industry and the sustainability of that is questionable,” Dr Chen said. “It’s going to cost a fortune. They’re paying their way out of it. They have got themselves in a real muddle with this.”
The industry is worth only about $121 million a year across the state, peanuts compared with the horse racing industry.
Dr Chen said greyhound racing was difficult to regulate because there were so many small operators and it was spread out, often located in remote areas.
“Are they going to hire a hundred guys to run around [to inspect and regulate the industry]? They don’t even do that sort of inspection for agriculture.”
Meanwhile, Mr Bair said he was giving the industry “one final chance” after previously digging his heels in and saying he would not repeal the ban because it was “the right thing to do.”
He said the government had heeded community concerns about the racing ban and decided to reverse it, albeit with added protections for greyhounds.
“We firmly believed the government’s decisive response to the animal cruelty outlined in Justice McHugh’s report was the right one – but we misjudged the community’s response to that report,” Mr Baird said.
“It’s clear the community agrees that the cruelty must end, but we underestimated the community’s desire to give the greyhound industry one last chance to reform and conform to the highest standards of animal welfare.
“The industry can’t return to the status quo – the barbaric practices of live baiting, cruel wastage and high rates of injury must end.”
The ban, which was to begin from July 1 next year, was instigated after the Premier was handed a report from a special commission of inquiry headed by retired judge Michael McHugh which found that up to 68,000 greyhounds had been euthanised over the preceding 12 years because they were deemed too slow.
Legislation to repeal the ban is likely to be introduced early in 2017 when the new regime will begin.
More to follow.
Comment below to have your say on this story.
If you have a news story or tip-off, get in touch at email@example.com.
Sign up to the Government News newsletter