On Thursday, NSW Premier Mike Baird announced that greyhound racing would be prohibited as of July 1, 2017. Baird said the decision was based on the findings of a Special Commission of Inquiry that was established last year after “very disturbing reports emerged of cruelty to animals and other illegal activities.”
Those activities were spotlighted in an episode of the investigative television program Four Corners, which included hidden camera footage of so-called ‘live baiting,’ aka the use of live animals – rabbits, piglets, etc. – to train the dogs to race. We’ll spare you the details, but the bait animals typically didn’t survive past the end of the race.
Baird’s Commission also revealed the scale of ‘wastage,’ otherwise known as trainers ridding their stables of dogs deemed too slow to win races. The Commission found that as many as 68,448 greyhounds – about half the total population in the state – had been killed over the past 12 years for not possessing the necessary traits of a winner.
The Commission determined that around 180 dogs per year sustained “catastrophic” injuries during races that resulted in their immediate death. Greyhound Racing NSW, the association representing industry stakeholders, had “adopted a policy of deliberately misrepresenting the extent” of these injuries.
Bottom line, the Commission determined that the greyhound racing industry “is not capable, in the short or medium term, of reforming.” Despite the industry supporting 1,000 direct jobs in the state, the government concluded that the industry’s benefits do not outweigh its shortcomings.
In the aftermath of Baird’s announcement, shares in Australian bookmaker Tabcorp fell over 7%. The company quickly issued a statement saying that NSW greyhound racing represented about 5% of its annual turnover but that it expected “a significant level of substitution to other wagering product” that would lessen the impact to its bottom line.
Racing stakeholders have vowed that the battle is far from over, pointing out the hypocrisy of banning dog racing while permitting horseracing to continue. They’ve also pointed out the tax revenue the state derives from racing will no longer be available to fund schools, hospitals and the like.
NSW is the first Australian state to ban greyhound racing. Governments in Victoria and Queensland have stated that they have no intention of following NSW’s lead but Queensland Racing Minister Grace Grace (so nice they named her twice) warned that the greyhound industry should be “aware that it’s on its last chance.”