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Friday, October 29, 2021

From Premier’s Desk

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GREYHOUND INDUSTRY GIVEN A CHANCE TO REFORM

Does the greyhound industry deserve one last chance to rid itself of animal cruelty? And if so, are they capable of reforming, or even willing to try? These questions were at the heart of the McHugh report and they have remained central to debate about this ever since.

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When I read the report, it was clear to me that this was an industry that had failed to reform itself. The NSW Cabinet unanimously agreed. We also believed that, when the broad community heard about the shocking findings of the report, they would also agree the industry needed to close.

In reality, the community has been divided.

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As you’d expect, people were absolutely horrified by the cruelty to animals outlined in the report and wanted something to be done.

But we underestimated the community’s desire to give the greyhound industry one final chance to reform.

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I have wrestled with this for many weeks now.

Thousands of people have written to my office – the majority in support of the ban. However, the opposite is true for many of my colleagues. One regional member of the government told me last week that, when he returned to his home town, people he has known for over 20 years were so angry about this that they were crossing the street to avoid him.

These differing views are also borne out in public opinion polling. When asked if they support the ban, a majority of people say yes. But, when asked if the industry should have been given a second chance, a majority of people also say yes.

So, what to do?

An issue that has particularly troubled me is that the McHugh report found that the greyhound industry was unwilling to change. Even if we gave this industry another go, would they actually be any different, or would we see the same horrific practices return?

Dr Keniry has provided some answers on this. After recently being tasked with overseeing the transition away from greyhound racing, he has spent the past few months on the ground talking with industry participants. Dr Keniry strongly believes that the announcement of the greyhound ban was a watershed moment for greyhound racing. He found in his meetings with trainers and breeders that the industry is now willing to make the drastic changes that it has resisted in the past.

When I consider these two factors together – the strong community desire to give the industry one last chance, and Dr Keniry’s advice that the industry is finally willing to reform – I am left with the belief that we need to change course.

We are going to give the greyhound industry one final chance to reform.

Let me be clear: there can be no return to the status quo. Live baiting must end. Cruel wastage must end. The industry must meet the highest animal welfare standards, or it will close.

The greyhound industry has already committed to eliminating wastage, drastically reducing injuries and ensuring the cruel practices end. A special panel, led by Morris Iemma, will be tasked with setting the toughest animal welfare and regulatory standards in Australia. We have asked the RSPCA to be a part of this panel.

Of course, some of you are going to be deeply disappointed and angered by this. And that is entirely understandable. I want you to know that my personal conviction on the need to stamp out animal cruelty has not changed. And my deep desire to ensure that dogs are not needlessly slaughtered is unmoved.

This was always about ending animal cruelty. The industry has promised to end the cruelty. And we’re going to hold them to it.

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