Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Update on greyhound welfare

Racing greyhound coats.
SAT reported previously that the NSW Legislative Council's Select Committee on Greyhound Racing in NSW would report on a parliamentary inquiry into this industry. Whether you support greyhound racing or not, this is an interesting issue because it raises important ethical questions - if we are to use animals in entertainment, what conditions are required such that this is just and fair use? Do we have obligations to animals used to such ends and what are these? There is no escaping the fact that greyhounds in this and other countries have been appallingly mistreated, and there is hope that the current review will lead to changes that have a positive impact on the welfare of these animals.

Dr Rosemary Elliot, from Sentient: The Veterinary Institute for Animal Ethics, reviews the Committee's first report below.

Greyhound racing in NSW inquiry (advocacy)

The NSW Legislative Council’s Select Committee on Greyhound Racing in NSW released its first report on 28 March 2014. The outcome of this parliamentary inquiry has been disheartening to all of us advocating for the welfare of greyhounds. 

Its bias towards industry was evident in a forward by the Committee’s Chair (and Shooters and Fishers Party MP) Hon Robert Borsak, who opened the report by claiming: “the greyhound racing industry in this State has a proud history.” 

Not surprisingly, the majority of the 18 recommendations arising from the inquiry focus on ways to improve the structure and oversight of Greyhound Racing NSW. A second report is to follow, with recommendations for improving the economic viability and long term sustainability of the industry. 

Only seven recommendations directly address animal welfare; these include increasing the number of drug swabs collected, two-yearly kennel inspections of all licenced premises, an independent inquiry to investigate the frequency and number of litters permitted for each breeding female, inclusion of socialisation in the animal welfare strategy, the development of best practice industry standards for race track design and maintenance and the provision of veterinary services, inclusion of kennels in Section 21 of the POCTA 1979 to ensure allegations of live baiting can be properly investigated, and “that Greyhound Racing NSW and/or the NSW Government commit greater resources for greyhound rehoming”. 

Whilst these recommendations could result in incremental improvements, in most instances there are no specifics provided and they cannot be enforced. Further advocacy by animal welfare organisations will be needed to encourage both Government and industry to act on these recommendations. Considering the multiple firsthand accounts of extreme animal welfare abuses presented to the inquiry, the Committee’s response appears tokenistic. 

It has missed the opportunity to propose strong reforms that would hold Greyhound Racing NSW accountable for the enormous ‘wastage’ of dogs through overbreeding and callous ‘disposal’, the low number of dogs rehomed, failure to track the whereabouts of greyhounds throughout their lives, high injury and death rates and the live export of greyhounds to new markets in Asia. 

Most significantly, it has failed to challenge the ongoing self-regulation inherent to the greyhound racing industry that allows these abuses to continue.

You can download the full report from this link. Thank you Dr Elliot for sharing this report with us.