NEW South Wales Opposition leader Luke Foley has voiced concerns the closure of the state’s greyhound racing industry could drive the sport underground.
The Baird government announced plans last Thursday to permanently ban greyhound racing within NSW, with the legislation set to go before parliament at the next meeting of the assembly on August 2.
“One of my concerns is that greyhound racing once illegal would continue at private tracks underground, unregulated,” Foley told Australian Racing Greyhound.
“There is no way that the welfare of animals could be monitored by the state or any independent body in those circumstances.
“I don’t see how that is good for animal welfare and I can’t see how the likely mass slaughter of thousands and thousands of greyhounds next year if the ban comes into effect is in the interests of animal welfare.”
Foley slammed Premier Mike Baird for announcing the ban, which followed on from the Special Commission of Inquiry report tabled by Justice Michael McHugh, without proper consultation.
The report contained damning figures regarding the sport’s ‘wastage’ numbers over the past 12 years, concluding that between 48,891 and 68,448 greyhounds have been killed in NSW alone.
The report also estimated between 10-20 per cent of greyhound trainers engaged in the practice of live-baiting and that the morbid activity was still happening despite the industry’s attempt at reform following the ABC’s ‘Making A Killing’ exposé.
“This was announced by the Premier’s social media guru on Facebook without an iota of consultation with the people involved in greyhound racing,” Foley said.
“The Premier was chasing Facebook likes but he treated with contempt thousands of people whose livelihoods are derived from greyhound racing.
“I do have a lot of respect for Justice Michael McHugh…I think he has rendered the state good service through his work here.
“McHugh’s first recommendation was that the Parliament should debate the future of the industry, but that was just ignored while the Premier and his Deputy Premier simply announced the ban on social media.
“For me I look to his 79 (other) recommendations on how the industry could continue…that’s the basis of what I’ll be putting to the Parliament next month as an alternative to the Baird/Grant plan to declare the industry illegal.”
Foley is urging Nationals MPs to cross the floor and join with the Labor Party on August 2 to ensure thousands of jobs and lives are not destroyed.
“What I resent most of all here is the sneering contempt the North Shore Liberals and inner-city Greens have for the people involved in the sport…they look down on them,” he said.
“We need the Nationals to break ranks with the Liberals, we will need National Party MPs to stand up for their communities.
“Lets remember that the clear majority of the state’s 34 greyhound racing clubs are in country NSW – I am appealing to the National Party to break ranks with the Liberals just this once and work with Labor to provide this industry with a future, subject to high animal welfare standards.”
Foley believes that the industry has an overwhelming amount of support, refuting claims that the sport has lost its ‘social licence’.
“There is anger directed at the rogues in the industry who have done the wrong thing and have put the industry’s future on the line,” he said.
“However, from my discussions in recent days, there is a great deal of support right across the state in local communities for the sport of greyhound racing and for the good people involved in it.”
While conceding the industry needs to continue to improve its animal welfare practices, Foley said the Labor Party is dedicated to working with the people involved in greyhound racing.
“Greyhound racing has operated here legally since 1927 and it has a proud history, but I also want it to be a part of the state’s future as a modern greyhound industry with strict standards when it comes to the welfare of greyhounds,” he said.
“I will be fighting in the parliament to rescue the industry and to put it on a proper footing subject to very high standards of animal welfare, but to ensure it is continued.
“I hold an affection for the many good people in the industry and I see their relationship with their dogs is their greatest passion in life – I just want my parliamentary colleagues to understand that.
“These people are animal lovers, they shouldn’t be written off as cruel or exploitative people when there are thousands of good people in the industry.
“I believe this is an elitist decision that treats, with contempt, all of those men and women who love their greyhounds, for whom their relationship with their dogs is their greatest passion in life.”