Dr MEHREEN FARUQI ( 16:12 :39 ): One year ago this week the greyhound racing ban in New South Wales was overturned; just eight months after being introduced. It was a pitiful demonstration of just how cynical politicians can be and a reminder that their convictions can be as changeable as the daily headline of a newspaper. It is an episode in history that has irreparably damaged people’s trust in politicians. It was total political opportunism from the Labor Party and complete political cowardice from the Liberal-Nationals Government. A few short months prior the Government had argued effusively that the greyhound industry could not change and must be shut down. It then changed its tune.
While giving the industry yet another chance it did not deserve, the racing Minister declared, “there can be no return to the status quo. Live baiting, cruel treatment and unnecessary killing of healthy dogs will not be tolerated.” He also gave the greyhound racing industry $41 million of taxpayer funds, against the advice of his own expert panel, because the industry would not pay to meet even the low standards of animal welfare that the Government now required of it. In exchange the greyhound racing industry promised that, “No greyhound will be unnecessarily euthanised”. But one year on not much has changed.
The much vaunted Greyhound Racing Integrity Commission has not even started work and the code of practice that was meant to end the cruelty and the deaths has not yet surfaced. Trainers continue to get caught drugging their dogs with methamphetamine, amphetamine, human growth hormones and arsenic. If the industry thought we would forget and abandon these animals, they are sorely mistaken. I have been busy submitting freedom of information requests for information from Greyhound Racing NSW. More than 700 greyhounds were killed in the nine months following the backflip. That is almost three dogs each and every day, the same rate as the year prior to all the promises made by the Minister and the industry. More than half of them were put down as “unsuitable for rehoming”—a polite industry term for the disposal of dogs that no longer turn a profit.
In October 2017, Greyhound Racing NSW charged greyhound racing participants Mark Farrugia, Stephen Farrugia, and Donna Farrugia for exporting 166 greyhounds to Shanghai and Macau, which is against greyhound racing rules due to the abysmal animal welfare conditions in these jurisdictions. In Shanghai, greyhounds are raced against cheetahs and Macau is home to the infamous Canidrome, which Grey2K has described as a “death camp for dogs”. I was quite curious why Greyhound Racing NSW did not release the names of the dogs, as was customary with other investigations. I placed another freedom of information request for the names and then cross referenced those names and ear brands against greyhound racing websites. One name that stood out was Wandering Mija who was exported to Macau at some point in 2015. The Greyhound Recorder website listed Michael Eberand as the trainer of Wandering Mija. The greyhound was owned by a syndicate called Ebering-Cortis. In April 2017 Mr Eberand was appointed by racing Minister Paul Toole as a director of the reconstituted Greyhound Racing NSW board. Mr Eberand was a vocal critic of the greyhound racing ban.
The simple fact is that the business of greyhound racing cannot survive without the deaths of hundreds of dogs. That is the fundamental maths problem which cannot be overcome. With no breeding cap thousands of dogs bred each year need homes. The industry only rehomed 498 greyhounds in 2016-17. The bulk of the heavy lifting in rehoming the greyhounds that do survive is done by volunteer rescue groups who are often given an ultimatum: take the dog or it will be put down. But their efforts can only go so far, which means hundreds of dogs continue to be euthanised.
Despite the backflip and the wholesale betrayal of the community by the major parties, animal lovers have not given up. There has never been greater awareness of the cruelty in greyhound racing. This growing momentum is unstoppable. The industry is in a downward spiral because it simply cannot meet even the most basic of animal welfare demands: an end to deaths, drugging and cruelty. The community has learnt an important lesson—the Labor, Liberal and National parties stand not on principle, but for self-preservation, no matter the cost.