With more than 1500 in attendance, leading trainer Noelene Holloway kicked things off on stage, pleading for common sense to prevail and for her community to be saved.
“Make no mistake, you are not just banning greyhound racing,” Holloway said.
“You are banning a community of thousands who interact with each other, love each other and love our dogs.
“It (the NSW ban on greyhound racing) is an absolute disgrace.”
Leader of the NSW Labor party, Luke Foley, then addressed the crowd, promising to lead the fight against the ban.
“I am totally opposed to Mr. Baird’s shut down of your industry,” Foley said, to big applause.
“I and my Labor colleagues will fight inside and outside parliament against this shutdown.”
Foley highlighted the contribution the greyhound industry makes to the state and lambasted the Government’s hasty decision to bring it down.
“This is not the sort of thing we can accept in a free and democratic country,” he said.
“The shut down of an industry that contributes $335 million to our state’s economy every year. An industry and sport that returns taxes to the state government of more than $30 million a year to schools and hospitals.
“Your sport makes a contribution to the social fabric of our society. It fills Government coffers.”
In many arguments against greyhound racing in the weeks since the ban, animal cruelty has been the main justification for the ban. Foley argued strongly against the point.
“Mr. Baird’s announcement on social media, without a jot of conversation with thousands of good men and women in the sport of greyhound racing, is a tyrannical measure, masquerading as a humane gesture,” he said.
“This is not a measure that will enhance animal welfare.
“Now we see that the Government has to engage and plan to partner with a crematorium – such will be the mass slaughter of greyhounds under Mr Baird’s plan.
“Mr Baird’s plan is a plan that will inevitably result in the slaughter of thousands of loved greyhounds.
Foley went on to banish trainers and criminals engaging in animal cruelty that have given the sport a bad name and presented a plan for the industry’s future.
“If you’re engaged in animal cruelty, get out of the industry – there’s no place for you,” he said.
“But, if you’re one of the tens of thousands of people who’s love for your greyhound dominates every single day of your life, I’ll stand with you. Labor will stand with you.
“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.
“The journey of reform has to continue and I’ll be putting a plan before state parole that would implement many recommendations, to ensure animal welfare.
If there have been acts of animal cruelty, Foley said it reflected on the laws, the resources and supervision of the industry, which is a slight on NSW Premier Mike Baird, who has faced extreme heat since the announcement to ban greyhound racing from July 1, 2017.
“It’s a failure of Government – a Government happy to take the taxes, but not provide the oversight that you’ve all been calling for,” Foley said.
Foley said that a Parliament debate and vote would take place “perhaps this week, probably next week” on the motion. But whatever happens in Parliament it is unlikely to be the final chapter in what is looming as a messy saga.
AustralianRacingGreyhound.com.au will keep you updated as more information comes to hand.