THE Independent Member for Denison, Andrew Wilkie, has called for the Federal Government to close down the greyhound racing industry following the ABC’s 7:30 Report which exposed the alleged exportation of Australian greyhounds to Macau and Vietnam.
The Report, which aired on Wednesday night, showed the terrible conditions faced by greyhounds living in the aforementioned countries where there are either poor or no animal welfare standards in force.
“First of all we saw earlier this year that the abhorrent practice of live baiting was commonplace in the greyhound racing industry. And now we see revelations on ABC’s 7:30 last night that hundreds of dogs are being exported to Asia where they have to live the rest of their lives in appalling conditions, all because they couldn’t run fast enough in Australia,” Wilkie said.
“Surely we now have all the proof we need that the greyhound racing industry is cruel and must be shut down immediately.
“If the Federal Government genuinely cared about improving animal welfare they would have shut this industry down a long time ago. Let’s hope that the Federal Minister listens to the enormous public outcry this time and acts immediately to end the cruelty.”
Greyhounds Australasia CEO Scott Parker hit back at the statements made by Mr Wilkie, highlighting that the industry is evolving to make the changes required for it to move forward.
“I think Mr Wilkie’s position on the matter is well known, but I am not sure he realises the changes going on with new rules as well as a significant push to not only acknowledge where there are weaknesses in the industry, but significant attention to change them,” Parker told Australian Racing Greyhound.
A release by Greyhounds Australasia earlier this week highlighted the steps which have been taken in recent years to stamp out the exportation of greyhounds to jurisdictions with poor standards, something made difficult by the fact that the practice is not illegal according to the law.
Parker explained that Greyhounds Australasia has been focusing on the issue for more than 10 years, including engaging with Agricultural Minister Barnaby Joyce and lobbying with Shadow Minister Joel Fitzgibbon to help support its Greyhound Passport system which would ensure the welfare of greyhounds which are to be exported overseas.
“In 2004, GA established a new rule, GAR124, in an attempt to protect the welfare of Australian greyhounds exported overseas. The rule requires all participants, when exporting a greyhound, to obtain a GA Greyhound Passport before meeting the Department of Agriculture’s export requirements,” Parker detailed in GA’s statement.
“If a registered industry participant exports a greyhound without applying for, and being granted, a passport through GA, greyhound racing controlling authorities have the power to commence an inquiry and, where a breach is established, take appropriate disciplinary action.
“GA recognises that without government support, it has limited powers to stop greyhounds being exported to countries with poor or unknown animal welfare standards. For the GA Passport Scheme to be effective, it requires government regulatory change.
“While additional export controls add to regulatory burden, GA submits that the additional requirements are appropriate and necessary to safeguard animal welfare.
“GA’s proposed requirements are relatively simple and would mean exporters would be required to produce evidence that they had obtained the necessary industry approvals by identifying their GA Passport number on government export documentation. This would provide a key protection to ensure greyhounds are not being exported to countries where their welfare may be at risk.
“In August 2014, GA wrote to the Federal Minister for Agriculture, the Hon. Barnaby Joyce MP, seeking his personal commitment to strengthening Commonwealth export control legislation to minimise the current risk to the welfare of Australian greyhounds and to Australia’s reputation as a responsible live animal exporter.
“While appreciative of GA’s efforts to proactively address the animal welfare concerns associated with greyhound exports, the Minister remains of the view that the existing regulation under the Export Control (Animals) Order 2004 is sufficient.
“That order requires the exporter to demonstrate to the Department of Agriculture that the animal has been prepared in accordance with the importing country’s requirements and export legislation.
“The Minister noted the federal government’s focus on removing regulation where possible and that they were not prepared to impose additional regulation without evidence of market failure and efforts by industry to resolve problems first. The GA Greyhound Passport Scheme is the industry’s proactive response to this problem.
“GA’s view is that government policy should reflect general community expectations. The government’s reluctance to act on industry and community concerns risks adverse welfare outcomes for exported greyhounds and threatens Australia’s standing as a strong advocate for animal welfare.”
The issues surrounding exportation have been addressed by the industry in recent times. In NSW an inquiry, to be chaired by leading barrister Adrian Anderson, was announced after it was discovered that there were a number of participants who weren’t adhering to the rules.
Parker also highlighted the other changes occurring in the greyhound racing industry in order to ensure animal welfare standards are kept at an optimum level following on from February’s live baiting scandal.
Current focuses include the education of participants, greyhound lifecycle tracking, new initiatives to limit the numbers of greyhounds whelped and ways to maximise each greyhound born making the track, extending the career of racing greyhounds and improving the current system of rehoming greyhounds after their track careers.