GA CEO responds to Dr John Kaye's criticism of industry's reform agenda

Friday 28 August 2015

The GA CEO Scott Parker has prepared the following for publication in the Maitland Mercury in response to criticism by NSW Greens MP Dr John Kaye, in that publication, of the industry’s efforts to reform.

Greens NSW MP John Kaye said: "This is little more than a PR exercise. In the past the greyhound racing industry has shown a reluctance to change and has failed to meet society’s expectations.

While we still have a long road ahead of us, we recognise that without significant, widespread reform and cultural change, the industry will not, and should not, survive. We are committed to seeing real and effective changes to the industry, and are open to scrutiny from animal welfare groups, regulators, and the public.

"Greyhounds Australasia is a representative body, not an enforcement agency. It is highly unlikely that its shopping list of reforms will result in any meaningful welfare improvements for animals in the greyhound racing industry

Greyhounds Australasia’s position as a representative body allows us to positively influence controlling authority decisions, particularly those which promise improved animal welfare outcomes. We also have an important role in communicating what our member controlling bodies have already done, and will do, to close the gap between industry welfare performance and community expectations. The initiatives outlined to date, which have included engagement with animal welfare and rights groups, including the RSPCA, to ensure we are making the best possible decisions on animal welfare matters, are already in place.

Racing Queensland and Greyhound Racing Victoria have supported all the recommendations for industry improvement made by the government appointed reviewers of those industries in recent months and are now working closely with government in making change. Changes to governance arrangements have been recommended and our members will support change where it promises better welfare outcomes for all greyhounds at every stage of their lifecycle.

We will continue to engage with these groups and acknowledge the challenges we face while putting forward a clear reform agenda over coming weeks and months that will further demonstrate the industry’s commitment to genuine reform.

"Since the spotlight was turned on greyhound racing in 2013, industry bodies have regularly released 'shopping lists' of animal welfare and integrity reforms. Despite the new protocols, there has been very little improvement in the outcomes for the animals.

While we have faced a number of challenges, GA and its members are working extremely hard to institute the right change to support a sustainable industry. Not only is this the right thing to do, there is simply no alternative. The industry has changed a lot already since February’s Four Corners revelations of disgraceful behaviour by some participants.

All decision-making is undertaken with our vision of animal welfare being at the centre of everything we do. Boards and CEOs across the eastern seaboard have changed, prize-money has been redirected into new greyhound welfare initiatives, breeding incentive schemes have been restructured or closed and funds redirected into greyhound welfare outcomes, independent reviews into best practice training methods, rearing and socialisation of greyhounds have reported allowing an evidence based approach to greyhound welfare decision making and significantly increased investigative and surveillance measures are now in place.

"A profitable greyhound racing industry can only exist at the expense of animal welfare. The industry is built on treating dogs as commodities that can be disposed of when they can no longer earn their keep.
"As long as there is a commercial greyhound racing industry there will be animal cruelty

Animal cruelty is not the basis of the industry, but the potential for the mistreatment of animals is an issue the industry has to resolve to recover community confidence and ensure it maintains its social licence to operate.

"Any reforms to improve the welfare of dogs and other animals in the absence of a ban on racing must be implemented and monitored by a body that is completely independent of the industry," Dr Kaye said.

GA and its members are committed to building transparency around the reform process and outcomes. Current and future agreements with animal welfare and rights groups will demand transparent reporting of industry welfare performance so we can be held publicly accountable for improvements over time.

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