Greyhound racing has closed itself

INQUIRY: Michael McHugh’s review documents an industry culture of cruelty, defiance and deception. Picture: Jonathan Carroll
INQUIRY: Michael McHugh’s review documents an industry culture of cruelty, defiance and deception. Picture: Jonathan Carroll

Greyhound racing enthusiasts who are dismayed by the closure of their industry are blaming Premier Baird, “greenies”, class warfare and “city-thinking” for shutting their races down.

They could not be more wrong. The industry itself is to blame for deceiving the public, clinging to inhumane practices and failing to reform when it had the opportunity. Make no mistake, the NSW Greyhound Racing Industry has effectively closed itself.

Retired High Court Judge Michael McHugh’s review runs to 11 thick volumes that methodically document an industry culture of cruelty, defiance and deception.

To those who say it’s just a “few bad eggs” and efforts have been made over the past year I say, read the report. It tells us emphatically that greyhound racing has not reformed and indeed can’t be reformed. For example it reveals stunning levels of greyhound “wastage” – that’s industry-speak for killing 48-68,000 mostly young, healthy dogs considered no good for racing.

The “wastage” issue is a global embarrassment and has been a key reason for closing the industry in other countries. Here GRNSW says it’s spending $200,000 annually on its “Greyhounds as Pets” (GAP) program. But the Commission found that since it started in 2007, fewer than 60 greyhounds annually have been rehomed while up to 5000 continue to be killed per year.

Can such appalling “wastage” be stopped? The inquiry says no.  With 7500 greyhounds whelped per year to fill the NSW racing schedule and 70% of those deemed “no good” for racing, the inquiry finds thousands of healthy young dogs will continue to be destroyed for the foreseeable future.  

The industry has also failed to rid itself of the disgusting practice of “live baiting”, notwithstanding the Four Corners outcry. There was evidence some participants still defend live baiting, and even argue the industry can’t survive without it. Reports of live baiting were made to GRNSW Board in September 2009 and March 2010. 

The commission discovered a secret policy devised of sanitising information and deliberately misleading the government and the public. From at least April 2013 to November 2015, GRNSW race stewards excluded injuries and deaths from their race reports, because they knew such reports would attract criticism. One steward told a vet “it would stir up the greenies”. The commission finds this constituted a deception of the public on issues the public was entitled to know. He says GRNSW failed to recognise it is accountable to the community for the way it governs the industry.

A new administrator from GRNSW has had to organise consultants to find out the information its own stewards decided not to collect. That is, the extent of greyhound injuries and deaths at race meetings. This was done and the findings are sickening. Over a year it is estimated racetrack incidents result in 2342 injuries, 361 of these are “major” injuries and 136 are “catastrophic injury” meaning the dog dies at the racetrack. And instead of doing something about it, GRNSW covered up. The bottom line is that greyhound racing has forfeited its own credibility.

Premier Mike Baird has described the report as "chilling and horrific". He announced a ban "in response to widespread illegal and unconscionable activity". Hunter Animal Rescue applauds the decision which takes effect July 1, 2017. We want to work with authorities to ensure 6800 registered NSW greyhounds are successfully re-homed.

Jaimie Abbott, President, Hunter Animal Rescue. hunteranimalrescue.com.au