On Thursday, NSW Premier Mike Baird announced a statewide ban on greyhound racing, effective from July 2017.
The news received mixed reaction – many happy to see the end of what they see as a cruel and inhumane sport, others skeptical of the Premier’s motives.
The Facebook comments on our recent blog on the subject ranged from “Good – About time”, “Glad it’s banned too much animal cruelty” and “greyhound racing is a HORRIBLE industry”, to “He’s only banned it so he can sell the track to developers”, “More people out of work… more lost revenue!! Good work Baird” and short-odds on racecourses being used as “Private housing development for Mike Baird cronies”.
The Premier has now posted responses to ten of the most common criticisms:
1. You are punishing many for the crimes of a few.
Like many of his responses, Baird draws heavily on the findings of the Special Commission of Inquiry into the Greyhound Racing Industry in NSW which found that the industry had many opportunities to correct systemic inhumane practices such as live baiting as mass killings, but failed to do so.
“the report of the Special Commission is very clear that these practices were systemic – for too long, too many people who knew what was going on didn’t do enough to reform greyhound racing. It is also very clear that the industry has had many chances to reform but has failed to do so.”
2. This is a land grab for developers.
One of the most common criticisms of Baird’s decision is that he has an ulterior motive – to sell land off to developers.
Baird’s denies this, saying:
“No, it’s not. Let me state this as clearly as possible: we will not be developing any tracks on Crown Land into residential or high rise… They will be used for community space.”
3. All these greyhounds are now going to die. These changes are actually worse for them.
Another common criticism is that vast numbers of greyhounds will now have to be put down because it is no longer financially viable to keep them.
Baird’s response is that tens of thousands are already are being killed, and a scheme will be put into place in an attempt save as many dogs as possible:
“We are working very closely with the RSPCA and their partners to re-home as many dogs as possible and our strong preference is for dogs to remain with their current owners or be adopted into homes.”
“[t]he report is very clear – tens of thousands of dogs are being systematically killed, often in inhumane ways, simply for not being fast enough. This would continue, and thousands of dogs each and every year would continue to die if we had not made this decision.”
4. This is a hastily made decision and there has been no consultation.
Baird says a “very detailed inquiry” was undertaken which:
“has taken over a year and had the powers of a Royal Commission. It received 2000 submissions and held private and public hearings. It has been in-depth. It has been comprehensive. There was nothing hasty about it, or this decision.”
5. The Government is hypocritical and will still take money from people in NSW gambling on dog racing in other states.
Baird claims he does not “want the government to profit from practices like the ones we have seen outlined in this review.”
6. This Government just wants to ban everything.
Many have criticised Baird for creating a “Nanny State” – through lockout laws which have led to the closure of hundreds of licensed premises, and the ever-expanding reach of state criminal laws and regulations.
In response, Baird claims “I’m a big advocate of small government that keeps out of your way.”
7. The industry was already reforming and on its way to a better future.
While conceding the industry had made “some progress”, Baird says
“… the report found trainers were STILL using live baiting and flouting the rules”.
He claims to have had no choice in those circumstances.
8. A total shut-down is an over-reaction. You should have just given more oversight.
Again, Baird claims the systemic nature of animal cruelty left him with no option other than to order a complete shutdown of the industry. He says:
“The culture of deception and mistreatment of dogs just ran too deep. Better regulation had been attempted, and failed, many times over.”
9. If you really cared about puppies you’d shut down puppy farms.
Baird says his government has ordered a review into puppy farms, and domestic breeding and sales. He says that:
“As a dog owner, I share everyone’s concern about puppy welfare and our government remains committed to big improvements in this area.”
10. The review said this should go to Parliament. Why isn’t it?
He says he will present legislation before the NSW Parliament during the next sitting period, during which all MPs will be able to have their say. However, he
“… expect[s] the legislation to pass because we believe anyone who reads this report will see there is no workable alternative option.”
Only time will tell whether Mr Baird will remain true to his word when it comes to the privatisation of Crown lands, protecting unwanted dogs and helping affected local communities.