New South Wales U-turns on Greyhound Racing Ban

Posted on: October 12, 2016, 04:00h. 

Last updated on: October 12, 2016, 01:21h.

New South Wales Premier Baird U-Turns on Greyhound Racing
Mike Baird said he had been wrong to ban greyhound racing and that the industry needed a chance to prove itself. (Image: Lachlan French)

The Australian state of New South Wales has dramatically reversed a ban on greyhound racing, as the state Premier Mike Baird claimed this week that he’d “got it wrong” and that the sport deserved a “second chance.”

The decision to ban the practice was handed down in July in the wake of a government investigation that found animal cruelty within the industry to be “widespread and systemic.” At the time Baird declared the findings of the report to be so “chilling and horrific” that he was left with “no acceptable course of action but to close this industry down.”

The investigation, conducted by former High Court judge Michael McHugh, reported that somewhere between 48,000 and 68,000 dogs had been killed in the state alone, either because they lacked the caliber to be racing dogs or had outgrown their usefulness.

“We Got It Wrong”

It also found that the illegal practice of “live-baiting” was commonplace within the industry. Live-baiting involves trainers tying live small animals to mechanical lures for dogs to chase in the belief that it will encourage them to chase dummy bait faster during actual races. Around 20 percent of trainers used the method, said McHugh.

Industry body Greyhound Racing NSW had a deliberate policy of misreporting the figures of deaths and injuries, he added, and concluded that the question of whether the industry had lost its “social license” to operate should be considered. Baird said that the industry was “no longer entitled to the trust of the community.”

But on Tuesday he was forced to defend his sudden U-turn on the issue. “We got it wrong. I got it wrong, cabinet got it wrong, the government got it wrong,” he said.

“People will call me all types of names, they really will,” he added. “They will criticize me for getting it wrong, that’s human. I mean, I’m human. Surely no-one is infallible, no governments are infallible.”

“The Sins of a Few”

His decision was praised, naturally, by the greyhound racing industry, which had complained that the proposed ban had “turned everyone’s life into turmoil,” in the words of one trainer to the BBC.

“There is no evidence that suggests that wrongdoing is part of systemic culture or part of the activities of the vast majority of decent, hard-working participants within this industry,” Brenton Scott of the Greyhound Breeders, Owners and Trainers Association, told ABC. “It would be wrong to penalize on a collective punishment basis the majority, for the sins of a few.”

But Baird was criticized by animal rights groups and opposition politicians alike. NSW Opposition Leader Luke Foley claimed the Premier’s credibility was now in tatters.