OPINION: Greyhound backlash misses the point: horrific cruelty means a ban is the only choice

In almost all media reporting on the greyhound racing ban in NSW, and social media for that matter, the discussion quickly drifts away from the horrific treatment of greyhounds to almost any other issue.

OPINION: By MEHREEN FARUQI on OCT 10, 2016 | The views expressed in this opinion piece do not necessarily reflect the views of Animals Australia.

In almost all media reporting on the greyhound racing ban in NSW, and social media for that matter, the discussion quickly drifts away from the horrific treatment of greyhounds to almost any other issue.

Questions are raised about why the greyhound industry was singled out; why not horse racing or factory farming? Is this about selling off public land or class warfare? Given the record of the NSW government this scepticism is well founded. But those trying to find reasons to justify their opposition to the ban seem to be either wilfully ignorant or completely oblivious to the widespread animal cruelty in this so-called sport.

I am the last person in the world to support the regressive Baird government. I have taken the fight to it on everything from privatising public transport to the plan to rip up even basic environmental protections.

In the past three years in NSW Parliament, my Greens colleagues and I have rarely voted with the Liberals to pass their legislation. One of these few occasions was the Greyhound Racing Prohibition Bill. This was an unusual moment of clarity from the government and a decision made on the basis of solid evidence.

The overwhelming proof of animal cruelty in the greyhound racing industry led to its banning. Yet, amid growing media speculation on the political repercussions of the ban on the Baird government, it seems the dogs have been forgotten. It is almost as if there wasn't a Special Commission of Inquiry that delivered a damning report after 13 months of investigation considering 151,000 pages of evidence, 115 hours of video evidence, 804 submissions and 69 individual testimonies. This inquiry was led by Justice McHugh, a former High Court judge, and involved extensive consultation with the industry, community members and animal welfare groups.

The sheer scale of animal suffering and death puts greyhound racing into a league of its own. The simple fact is that it cannot survive without the deaths of thousands of dogs. Justice McHugh's report estimates that over the past 12 years, 97,783 greyhounds were bred. At least 50 per cent to 70 per cent of these dogs were deliberately killed simply because they never were, or no longer were, capable of being competitive. This means up to 68,448 dogs killed – more than 15 a day, and all for the sake of a bet.

On top of this, 10 per cent to 20 per cent of trainers engage in live baiting and 180 greyhounds a year suffer from what is called "catastrophic injuries", such as skull fractures or broken backs that result in their immediate death or euthanasia. A further 365 endure major injuries each year. In just the last seven weeks since the greyhound legislation has passed, 14 dogs have been killed on track and hundreds more injured.

These shocking statistics are entirely consistent with the information the Greens and animal welfare organisations have been receiving from tip-offs and whistle-blowers for a number of years.

This is an industry that has not only failed but outright refused to reform. The industry regulator repeatedly said it was committed to greater transparency and reforms to improve animal welfare yet consistently failed to deliver. A system of life-time tracking of dogs from birth to death was first promised by the regulator in 2006, more than 10 years ago. However, industry participants were only forced to comply with this system in 2016. This has allowed the industry to hide the real number of dogs being killed for more than a decade.

As long as greyhound racing continues, there will be thousands of dogs "wasted" once they can't run fast enough. According to evidence given to the Commission of Inquiry, GRNSW could only commit to rehoming 10 per cent of dogs born each year into the foreseeable future. Sadly, we all know what happens to the rest.

Backing the voiceless is a difficult business. Greyhounds can't write editorials, dominate the airwaves or have front cover after front cover in The Daily Telegraph highlighting their plight. They can't even say "no" to being roped into media events with Labor and Luke Foley in their twisted attempts to promote the very thing that kills and hurts them.

Since the ban, the level of invisibility of the greyhounds and the stark reality of their fate has been surprising and exasperating. Ignoring animal cruelty will not make it go away.

The NSW government is on the nose for its hospital privatisation plans, undemocratic council amalgamations, the decimation of TAFE and much more. People are right to treat the Baird government with suspicion. But sometimes, even bad governments make good decisions and banning greyhound racing is one of them.

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