The Australian state of New South Wales has decided it won’t ban greyhound racing after all, a decision that has industry stakeholders cheering and animal rights advocates fuming.
In July, NSW premier Mike Baird (pictured) announced that greyhound racing would be banned in the state as of July 1, 2017. Baird based his decision on the findings of a Special Commission of Inquiry that was formed after investigative TV program Four Corners aired graphic evidence of animal cruelty at dog tracks.
But on Tuesday, Baird undid his shutdown order, telling reporters that hindsight had convinced him that “I got it wrong. Cabinet got it wrong. The government got it wrong.” Baird said his original order had been based on “a course that we believed was right” but a furious lobbying campaign by racing stakeholders had now convinced him otherwise.
Baird apologized to stakeholders for the fact that his administration “did not give the good people in the industry a chance to respond, a chance to reform.” Baird said it was only fair that racing “be given that one last chance” to prove it could operate without the “barbaric practices” of live-baiting exposed via the 2015 Four Corners episode.
Baird said the racing industry understood that “this is their last chance” and thus stakeholders will be “desperate to change” their ways. To ensure racing doesn’t forget that desperation, Baird announced the formation of a new five-person regulatory body that will be headed up by former NSW premier Morris Iemma.
Anyone caught engaging in live-baiting will be subject to both a lifetime ban from racing and a lengthy prison sentence. All dogs must be registered for their entire lives, and the number of dogs involved in racing will be capped at 2k, excluding dogs bred for export to other states.
Animal rights advocates were quick to condemn Baird’s flip-flop, saying he’d ditched his ideals to shore up his flagging poll numbers. The RSPCA said it hadn’t made up its mind whether to accept Baird’s invitation to have a presence on the new industry watchdog panel.
RSPCA NSW CEO Steve Coleman said 140 years of trying to get the industry to abide by animal welfare standards meant his group was “entitled to be cynical about the ability of this industry to reform.”