FORMER New South Wales Premier Morris Iemma has spoken out on the future of the greyhound racing industry.
Iemma’s statements come as he prepares to lead the newly formed Greyhound Industry Reform Panel charged with making recommendations to the government on how to reform the industry following Mike Baird’s reversal of the controversial greyhound racing ban.
Iemma says in order to prosper, the greyhound racing industry must be prepared to change in order to align with community standards.
“The community very clearly wants the industry to have a go improving regulation and compliance, but if it’s shown that it still can’t change, than I don’t think they can rely on any form of public support anymore,” Iemma told The Australian.
The Greyhound Industry Reform Panel is made up of Iemma, Greyhound Breeders, Owners and Trainers Association (GBOTA) CEO Brenton Scott, as well as representatives from the RSPCA, the Department of the Premier and the Department of Primary Industry.
The panel will consider evidence from the Special Commission of Inquiry Report, as well as a variety of other resources prior to making its recommendations, including advice from an expert advisory committee which is yet to be established.
Iemma said breeding was set to be a major focus of the Panel, with restrictions needed to be put in place to properly regulate the amount of dogs born into the industry.
“One of the issues is the number of dogs, and that has to be reduced,” he said.
“How that happens and the regulations around it is one thing I need to get across. Another point is reducing the number of meetings so you require less greyhounds, but the implication that has for tracks and meetings still needs to be worked through.”
A cap of 2,000 pups born per annum had been suggested by the NSW Greyhound Racing Industry Alliance as a part of four guarantees made to the Premier on August 9.
Whilst these guarantees have been specifically mentioned in the terms of reference for the new panel, the industry has tried to distance itself from the figure, stating that the industry is no longer bound to that number.
“The Alliance have raised [the 2,000 breeding cap] specifically with the Premier and Deputy Premier,” GBOTA CEO Brenton Scott said.
“Since [August 9] the Alliance has taken its position to Greyhounds Australasia and has explained that the concept of a controlled breeding program needs to have a national focus.
“We need to understand what’s needed to cater for the entire national racing program at a given time and all of our planning needs to be between two and five years ahead.
“We obviously can’t breed more than we need to cater for that racing program, once we ensure the national level and the flow between states, then it will become an easier process to determine the breeding levels that should apply in each state.
“It’s not about approaching this issue from a breeding cap point of view, but approaching it from an appreciation that we shouldn’t be breeding excess to our racing needs and we shouldn’t be breeding excess to our capacity to re-home in a manner that is line with community expectations.”
Our say on the Greyhound Industry Reform Panel
The greyhound racing industry must brace itself for a turbulent time ahead, with major changes set to come from the newly-formed panel.
Many of these changes will be welcomed, such as enhanced animal welfare standards, however, there is also immense uncertainty in regards to what the future of the sport looks like.
Morris Iemma’s comments to The Australian indicate that the Panel will be aiming to decrease the amount of dogs born into the industry.
Although Brenton Scott has addressed the issue of the 2,000 breeding cap, it is concerning that the industry may be held to this precise figure on a technicality given the terms of reference for the panel specifically quote the guarantees made on August 9 by the Alliance, which this number was a part of.
It will be unfortunate if the industry is locked into this number, with more research essential to establish the correct amount of dogs required to achieve the correct balance of having enough greyhounds to fill the demands of racing, versus the amount of dogs which can be successfully re-homed.
Australian Racing Greyhound is also urging the NSW Greyhound Racing Industry Alliance to make public its letter sent to the NSW Premier on August 9.
This was another document specifically stated within the terms of reference for the new panel, and despite the Alliance stating the commitments made within the letter are identical to those published in the press release on the same day, we feel that in order to be fully transparent this letter should be made available to participants and the wider community.
Whilst it is to early to say whether the recommendations of the panel will improve the sport as a whole, Australian Racing Greyhound is hopeful that a series of positive changes relating to animal welfare, integrity, compliance and regulatory functions will be put in place to see the greyhound industry thrive.