HYDE Park turned into a sea of yellow on Tuesday as over 2000 greyhound racing participants and supporters flocked to Sydney from all over Australia to show their support for the industry.
From Victoria, all regions of New South Wales and right up to Queensland, people stood in unison, fighting for the same cause – to see the sport continue into the future.
Australia’s largest greyhound breeder and owner, Paul Wheeler, said his family will not be relocating interstate if the proposed legislation to ban greyhound racing is passed through the New South Wales Parliament.
Speaking at the rally, Wheeler expressed his frustration over the decision, announced by Premier Mike Baird and Deputy Premier Troy Grant, that the sport will be outlawed within the state as of July 1, 2017.
“We started off the same as everyone else, just as a hobby, just as something to do,” Wheeler said.
“We started off with cast offs and giveaways and eventually we built it into a business in the early 70s.
“I left school when I was 15 – I have done nothing else the rest of my life… I don’t know what I am going to do.
“We will have to get out of the industry like everyone else, Wheeler greyhounds will not be establishing in another state – it will be the finish of us.”
Several business owners, including pet food suppliers, who depend on the industry for the majority of their business were at the rally to show support for the sport which sustains their lives.
“My husband and I have never owned or trained a greyhound, but Mr Baird has decided that as of July next year he’s going to take away our family legacy and he’s going to put us on the unemployment line, along with all our staff,” Bec Pace, who owns a meat supply company, told the crowd.
Also among the speakers were several trainers, including Dean Swain and Mark Gatt, while Fred Nile from the Christian Democrat Party and Robert Borsak from the Shooters Fishers and Farmers Party also showed their support for the industry.
But no person got as much of a reaction as the NSW Opposition Leader Luke Foley, who told the emotional gathering that the Labor Party will support the good people of the greyhound racing industry and will fight for their rights.
“I am totally opposed to Mr Baird’s shutdown of your industry and I and my labor colleagues will fight inside and outside of parliament against this shutdown,” Foley said to a cheering crowd.
“Mr Baird’s announcement on social media without a jot of conversation or discussion with the thousands of good men and women within the sport of greyhound racing is a tyrannical measure masquerading as a humane gesture.
“Mr Baird’s plan is one that will inevitably result in the slaughter of thousands and thousands of beloved greyhounds.
“He will have to engage a crematorium because the greyhound carcasses will be piled sky high and they will have to burn them – this is his plan for animal welfare
“What I find most objectionable here, what I find utterly offensive, is the Premier’s disparagement of thousands of people who love their animals, seeking to make them pariahs – this is unacceptable in a democracy.
“Everything I have heard only strengthens my faith that there are so many good men and women in this industry that we shouldn’t give up on it.
“Your regulator has let you down. The regulator is a government appointed body – if there has been acts of animal cruelty then that is a failure of the government to provide the laws, the resources, the supervision, the oversight to make sure it is stamped out.
“The government is happy to take the taxes but not provide the oversight which everyone has been calling for.”
It is unknown precisely when the government will introduce its legislation to ban the sport of greyhound racing before the Parliament, however Foley indicated it is likely to happen within the next week.
On a personal level, I have never been so pleased to be a part of this great industry than standing side by side other trainers in Sydney today.
To see people overcome with emotion, crying and embracing one another was simply incredible.
These were people at breaking point, having been heartbroken by a heavy handed government with no concern for thousands of good, honest people whose lives have now been ruined.
While it is uncertain what the future holds for greyhound racing, everyone can be proud that we have united and stood up for the industry we love.