BUSTING THE MYTHS

The Truth About the Special Commission Report and the myths spread by the greyhound racing industry.

 

1. The ban is a death sentence for all of the dogs currently in the industry

FACT:  the opposite is true: this ban is an opportunity for dogs in the industry to be saved.

The Commission reported that there are 6,809 dogs currently registered in the industry.[1] If the industry were allowed to continue business as usual, 50-70% of these dogs would have been killed because they were not fast enough.[2] 

The Baird government has acted decisively to stop the vicious cycle of overbreeding and ‘wastage’, and now we need to ensure the dogs currently in the industry are given every opportunity to enjoy a dignified retirement.

The Greens are advocating that the following measures are included in the government’s transition plan to maximise the rate of rehoming: 

  • An immediate end to the breeding of greyhounds for racing purposes in NSW
  • The creation of a sanctuaries for greyhounds leaving the industry from now until 1 July 2017 The sanctuaries could employ existing workers in the greyhound racing industry and be housed on existing racing tracks.
  • A uniform process for removing dogs from industry and rehoming
  • Involvement of smaller rescue groups
  • Incentives for owners to keep their dogs One option would be for the NSW government to provide financial assistance to owners to help them purchase adequate food, shelter and veterinary treatment for the animals under their care.
  • Promotion of greyhounds as a companion breed. An education program to increase attractiveness of greyhounds as pets needs to be implemented as soon as possible.

Read more here:

 2. This was a knee jerk reaction: the industry hasn’t been given a chance to reform.

FACT: The industry has demonstrated on multiple occasions that it is both unwilling and incapable of reform.

Following the live baiting expose in February 2015, the entire board of Greyhound Racing NSW was forced to resign. Since then, they have embarked on multiple reforms to clean up the industry and improve the welfare of animals under their care particularly in regards to the numbers of dogs killed.

They failed. According the Commissioner, “despite the best intention and efforts of the new management at GRSNW, it appears unlikely that the issue of large scale killing of healthy greyhounds by the industry can be successfully addressed in the future.”[3]

According to evidence given to the Commission of Inquiry, GRNSW could only commit to rehoming 10% of greyhounds born each year[4] into the foreseeable future. This presents an unacceptable animal welfare problem that no amount of reform will overcome. 

Multiple scenarios were modelled by the Commission, including reducing the number of races, lowering the number of greyhounds in each race and introducing so called ‘tier 3’ racing for slower dogs. However even if such measures were implemented, it is expected that 2,000 to 4,000 dogs would be killed before they reached the track each year.[5]

Some sections of the greyhound racing community also actively resisted attempts to improve animal welfare. Following the announcement of the ban, the outgoing interim CEO of Greyhound Racing NSW said:  “we often had to deal with the outright denial of the significant animal welfare issues in the industry. On many occasions proposed reforms were dismissed and resisted by industry participants and while some participants courageously championed reform, overall there was little appetite to demonstrate the significant change was in place before the inquiry had made its recommendation to government.”[6]

Former GRNSW Vet Gareth Bryant is also of the opinion that the industry is incapable of cleaning itself up, telling the ABC "I was disgusted by what I witnessed. I saw some horrific injuries and I saw some of the worst aspects of human behaviour too.” [7]

This inability to confront and deal with cases of animal mistreatment is not a new phenomenon in the greyhound racing industry.

Industry regulator GRNSW repeatedly said it was committed to greater transparency and reforms to improve animal welfare yet consistently failed to deliver. An example repeated promises to implement a system of life-time tracking of dogs from birth to death. This was first promised by the regulator in 2006, more than 10 years ago, yet industry participants were only forced to comply with the ‘OzChase’ system this year[8]. This has allowed the industry to deceive the public regarding about the number of dogs being killed for over a decade.  

The inability to introduce life-time tracking for dogs is just one example of the industry’s failures when it comes to animal welfare. Further examples include the number of individuals who knew about the practice of live baiting yet took no steps to eradicate it and the misreporting of injuries and deaths on track as to avoid “stirring up the Greenies.[9]

The greyhound racing industry has spent years trying to cover up animal welfare abuses rather than fix them. As noted by the Commission, they consistently put profits before animal welfare.

3. The entire industry is being punished for the sins of a few.

 

The claim that the mistreatment of dogs and other animals in the greyhound racing industry is limited to a few “rotten apples” is simply not credible.

Some industry participants estimated up to 90% of trainers engaged in the practice of live baiting, but the Special Commission has estimated between 10-20%[10] .

Even if you take the lower figure of 10%, many more people including owners, participants and racing officials would have known what was happening and done nothing to stop it. Live baiting is a crime perpetrated by some, but covered up by many.

It is also clear that the entire industry is based on the slaughter of healthy dogs, with up to 68,000 dogs have been killed in the past 12 years because they were ‘uncompetitive.[11] The Commission found that even if greyhound racing were to reduce the number of races to a bare minimum to keep the industry alive, 2,000 to 4,000 dogs would still be killed each year before they make it to the track.

There is no doubt that there are participants within the industry who take great care of their individual greyhounds and shun the practice of live baiting.

However the prevalence of live baiting and mass killing of dogs points to a toxic culture within the industry which view animals not as sentient beings, but commodities which can bred, raced and killed in the name of ‘sport’ and gambling.

4. Jobs

 

The loss of any job can be a terrible outcome, especially in areas of high unemployment. But with Government assistance, workers in the industry can transition to better opportunities.

For an industry that turns over $1 billion in wagering each year, the greyhound racing industry is a relatively poor employment generator.

In regards to direct employment, 52 persons are employed by greyhound clubs on a full-time basis while 511 persons are employed on a part time or casual basis. 79 people are employed by the regulator, Greyhound Racing NSW.[12]

According to the Special Commission of Inquiry, previous estimates that the industry employs 1,561 to 2,700[13] full time jobs, both directly and indirectly are an overstatement.

The decline in popularity of greyhound racing already poses a significant risk to the job security of people currently employed in the industry.  Prior to the announcement by the Baird government, the industry regulator Greyhound Racing NSW was already planning to close up to 24 tracks, including 19 non-TAB tracks. The majority of these tracks are located in rural and regional areas including Armidale, Broken Hill, Moree, Tamworth and Young. 

The Commission identified that both participant numbers and trackside attendees are falling, and at the time of inquiry the regulator GRNSW was considering closing multiple tracks across the state.[14] According to the Commission’s report, “if the industry continues, the outlook for participants is bleak.”[15]

 While greyhound racing does not support a sustainable or state significant workforce, it is clear that the people currently employed value their jobs and would be concerned about the impact that the closure of the industry would have on them and their families.

It is critical that these workers receive adequate support from the state government to support them to transition into alternative employment. One option includes hiring some industry participants to work in government run kennels while the process of rehabilitating and rehoming dogs currently in the industry takes place.

5. It will hurt the economy

 

While the greyhound racing industry does make a positive economic contribution to the state, this benefit is relatively small and is likely to decline in coming years.[16]

In terms of direct expenditure generated by greyhound racing in NSW, estimates range from $144.2 million to $355.7 million per year[17], however the Commission warns that this range is likely to be an overestimate.

Economic analysis conducted by Price Waterhouse Coopers in 2014 found that “the racing industry is a consumptive sector of the NSW economy. As such, it doesn’t generate any significant productivity benefits to the rest of the economy to lift State output permanently.[18]

Through wagering taxes, the NSW government receives approximately $30 million a year from greyhound racing.[19] In 2015/16[20] this represented just 0.041% of overall revenue.[21]

Regardless of the industry’s economic benefit, the industry has repeatedly shown that it is incapable of operating without gross animal abuse including live baiting, the mass killing of dogs and the injuring of greyhounds while racing. Rationalising these practices in the name of economic gain is unacceptable.

6. It’s a ‘way of life’ for rural and regional communities

The sport of greyhound racing has been in decline for years, in terms of both participants and popularity.

In 2011-12 there were 4,841 registered industry participants in NSW, down from 5,959 in 2008/09. In 2015, this had fallen to 4,414.[22] From 2008 to 2015, the industry experienced a 22% decline in the number of licenced participants. [23]

Public attendance at greyhound race meetings has also experienced a significant decline. From 2010 to 2015, attendance at TAB tracks had seen a fall of 27.5% while non-TAB tracks, had experienced a decline in attendees of 22.7%.[24]

Prior to the announcement by the Baird government, the industry regulator Greyhound Racing NSW was already planning to close up to 24 tracks, including 19 non-TAB tracks. The majority of these tracks are located in rural and regional areas including Armidale, Broken Hill, Moree, Tamworth and Young.[25]

These track closures would have occurred regardless of the ban.[26]

It is clear that meaningful community engagement in greyhound racing was already in steep decline prior to the announcement of a ban, with no evidence of this trend being reversed. Under these circumstances, rural and regional communities already faced the reality that greyhound racing was on its last legs.

Regardless of the inevitable demise of greyhound racing, it has to be acknowledged that the industry does provide some people with an opportunity to socialise and engage with others in their community. This should not be trivialised as it clearly is of importance to these individuals.

However social benefits promoted by those in the industry are not exclusive to greyhound racing, and do not outweigh the significant negative impacts that the industry has inflicted on the wider community of NSW. These include distress at the number of dogs killed and incidences of live baiting, continued deception and instances of cover-ups by the industry regulator and the prioritisation of profits over animal welfare time and time again.

Rural and regional communities deserve better forms of community engagement and opportunities to socialise then an industry already in decline and riddled with intractable animal welfare issues. 

7. This is a ploy to enable Premier Baird to sell off publicly owned greyhound racing tracks

 

The evidence obtained by the Commissioner stands on its own as to why the greyhound racing industry cannot continue. Speculation over the future use of greyhound tracks is a separate issue.

The Premier has made multiple public statements promising that existing greyhound tracks will be used “for open public space, alternative sports facilities or other community use”[27] and that there will be no high-rise developments at Wentworth Park[28]. Mike Baird needs to be held to his word on these commitments.

The Greens are committed to holding the government to account and making sure that the 20 greyhound tracks currently on trust land are utilised for public purpose and not sold off to the highest bidder.

8. The report is flawed.

The final report of the Special Commission of Inquiry into Greyhound Racing was developed after 13 months of investigation considering 151,000 pages of evidence, 115 hours of video evidence, 804 new submissions and 69 individual testimonies.

The inquiry was led by a former High Court judge with 16 years of experience and involved wide consultation with the industry, community members and animal welfare groups.

To suggest that the report is ‘flawed’ is a disingenuous ploy to try and undermine the passage of the legislation to ban greyhound racing in parliament.

The criticisms are flimsy and do not withstand informed critique:

1.       The report relied heavily on evidence from the American greyhound racing industry, including evidence that puppies were drowned

This is a media beat-up. The example of puppies being drowned in the USA was appropriately referenced in the report.  It is one example in 151,000 pages of evidence.

Regardless of the example used, there is strong evidence that this brutal practice takes place in Australia. Similar claims were made to a NSW Parliament Inquiry investigating the greyhound racing industry two years ago. In 2014, a Tasmanian greyhound trainer had his licence cancelled after being found guilty of drowning and neglecting greyhound puppies.[29]

2.       The report relied on incomplete data  

The report made sound conclusions about the number of dogs whelped, injured and killed with the evidence that it was presented with.

The greyhound racing industry has done everything it can to hide the truth about the treatment of dogs in the industry. For over a decade the industry promised to introduce life time tracking of dogs but failed. Up until recently, deaths and injuries on track were covered up.

For the first time, the Special Commission of Inquiry exposed the systemic, widespread killing of dogs in the industry. And the figures are not pretty. Over the past 12 years, over 68,000 dogs have been killed by the greyhound racing industry.  Rather than accept this reality, the greyhound racing industry has gone into overdrive to try and discredit the figures estimated by the Special Commission of Inquiry.

Regardless of the figures in the report, the industry’s own figureheads have admitted to the widespread killing of dogs. In a confidential document in 2013, Greyhounds Australasia admitted that the industry disposed of 13,000 to 17,000 dogs a year Australia wide.

The Commission also examined multiple scenarios to reduce the number of dog deaths in the industry. Under each scenario, thousands of dogs would still need to be killed each year.

 The question needs to be asked of racing advocates – how many dogs do they think is acceptable to kill for the greyhound racing industry to continue?

3.       It overestimated the injury rate

The Commission found that 21.17% of dogs that compete in a race suffer an injury. They arrived at this figure by using GRNSW’s own data from their Second Greyhound Racing Injury Report for 2016 and extrapolating the rate to cover a yearly period.

Far from an exaggeration, this injury rate is likely to be an underestimate. Injury rates as reported by GRNSW do not include dogs that had presented with an injury after they left the track. They also did not include trial races where veterinarians were not present. [30]

The industry is attempting to draw attention away from the horrible suffering experienced by too many dogs on tracks around NSW. Injuries include joint and ligament sprains, muscle sprains, severe skull and spinal traumas and open joint fractures.

Greyhound Racing NSW’s own figures show that between 1 January 2016 and 31 March 2016, there were 584 injury incidents at race meetings. These included 34 ‘catastrophic’ cases where dogs either died or needed to be euthanised on track.[31]

 

4.       It overestimated live baiting

 

This is false. If anything, the incidences of live baiting were extremely moderate.

The Commission was not able to examine industry participants that had been charged or were before the courts in regards to live baiting offences as to avoid interfering with the “administration of justice in existing prosecutions.[32]

The NSW Labor Opposition and the industry claim that because the Commission examined 10 trainers suspected of live baiting, the practice is not systemic or accepted in the industry.

Of the 10 trainers that the Commission compelled to give evidence, 9 admitted they engaged in the practice, with the Commission confident that the remaining trainer was also complicit. These trainers described live baiting as “rampant” “common practice” and “extremely widespread.”

The Commission also received varying estimates of the prevalence of live baiting, from 10 – 90% of all trainers. Taking this into account, their final estimate of 10-20% is relatively modest.

Even if the lowest figure of 10% is accepted, many more people including owners, participants and racing officials would have know what was happening and did nothing to stop it. Live baiting is a crime perpetrated by some, but covered up by many.

 

[1] SCOI Volume 1, 1.2

[2] SCOI Volume 1, 1.3

[3] SCOI Volume 1, 1.125

[4] SCOI Volume 1

[5] http://www.greyhoundracinginquiry.justice.nsw.gov.au/Documents/fact-sheet-greyhound-racing-industry-nsw-special-commission-of-inquiry.pdf

[6] https://www.thedogs.com.au/NewsArticle.aspx?NewsId=7762

[7] http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-07-14/the-tail-was-torn-off-former-greyhound-vet-reveals-cruelty/7629906

[8]

[9] SCOI Volume 1, 1.60

[10] SCOI Report Volume 1, 1.52 and 1.53.

[11] SCOI Report Volume 1, 1.4

[12] SCOI Volume 1, 1.89

[13] SCOI Volume 1, 1.84 and 1.86

[14] http://www.smh.com.au/nsw/greyhound-track-closures-flagged-well-before-industry-shutdown-announcement-20160713-gq4shs.html

[15] SCOI report volume 1 27.46

[16] SCOI Volume 1, 1.94

[17] SCOI Volume 1, 1.84 and 1.86

[18]http://www.greyhoundracinginquiry.justice.nsw.gov.au/Documents/Select_Committee_on_GR_NSW_Second_Report_-_16_October_2014.pdf

[19] SCOI Volume 3, 25.11. Revenue from taxation on wagering was set to decrease under the Coalition’s Tax Harmonisation Policy from 2015/16 onwards.

[20] Budget 2016-17, Budget Paper Number 1, 5.3.

[21] For 2015/16 government revenue was estimated to be $73.8 billion.

[22] SCOI report Volume 3, 28.57.

[23] SCOI report Volume 3, 28.61

[24] SCOI report Volume 28.69

[25] SCOI Report Volume 3, 26.34.

[26] http://www.smh.com.au/nsw/greyhound-track-closures-flagged-well-before-industry-shutdown-announcement-20160713-gq4shs.html

[27] http://www.justice.nsw.gov.au/Pages/media-news/media-releases/2016/Greyhound-Racing-to-be-Shut-Down-in-NSW.aspx

[28] http://www.smh.com.au/national/education/push-for-school-on-wentworth-park-after-mike-baird-bans-greyhound-racing-in-nsw-20160707-gq0mkn.html

[29] http://www.theadvocate.com.au/story/2293397/murtoa-greyhound-trainer-drowns-puppies-licence-cancelled/

[30] SCOI Report Volume 2, 15.48.

[31] http://www.grnsw.com.au/uploads/FirstQuarter%20-%20Greyhound%20Racing%20Injury%20Report(1).pdf

[32] http://www.greyhoundracinginquiry.justice.nsw.gov.au/Documents/Commissioners_Opening_Remarks_final_version-10_June_2015-3.pdfhttp://www.greyhoundracinginquiry.justice.nsw.gov.au/Documents/Commissioners_Opening_Remarks_final_version-10_June_2015-3.pdf