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Mike Baird has banned greyhound racing in NSW

Photo: Vince Caligiuri/Getty.

New South Wales premier Mike Baird has announced an end to greyhound racing in the state by 1 July, 2017.

The decision follows an inquiry into the industry following revelations of live baiting.

Commissioner and former High Court judge Michael McHugh recommended Parliament consider whether the industry had lost its “social licence” to operate and should be shut down. If the industry continued, he said there was a “very real risk” that practices such as live baiting would continue.

The report found up to 20% of trainers used live baiting and 180 greyhounds a year sustain “catastrophic injuries” during races that resulted in their immediate deaths.

“The industry is not capable, in the short or medium term, of reforming,” the premier said.

“The report found that ‘it appears unlikely that the issue of the large scale killing of healthy greyhounds by the industry can be addressed successfully in the future’. In fact, the report found that, ‘such is the culture of the industry and some of its leaders that it is no longer, if it ever was, entitled to the trust of the community’.

“As a humane and responsible Government, we are left with no acceptable course of action except to close this industry down,” Baird said.

“This is the inevitable conclusion to be drawn from the appalling revelations in Mr McHugh’s report and his considered view that any other measures are unlikely to protect animals from further cruelty.”

The decision was sparked by a Four Corners expose in February 2015 that revealed some of the country’s top trainers using live animals, including rabbits, possums and baby piglets to train dogs.

The program, titled “Making A Killing”, broadcast footage of dogs being trained using banned live baiting in three states, Victoria, Queensland and New South Wales. The incidents were captured in secret surveillance footage by animal rights group Animals Australia.

It sparked inquiries, suspensions, arrests and criminal court cases across the country.

In NSW, deputy PM and racing minister Troy Grant sacked the board of Greyhound Racing NSW and CEO immediately following the revelations.

Greyhound Racing NSW generates around $48 million in revenue annually, and launched its own inquiry, with last year’s annual report featuring an extensive apology and way forward for the industry.

There are over 1000 direct jobs in greyhound racing in NSW and nearly 6000 registered owners. Australia is one of eight countries where greyhound racing is legal.

But the damning report by McHugh’s Special Commission of Inquiry found extensive and systematic animal abuse, with between 48,891 and 68,448 on the 97,783 greyhounds bred for racing in the last 12 years, killed because they were deemed uncompetitive.

“In the industry, they call this ‘wastage’”. It’s not wastage: it is the unnecessary slaughtering of tens of thousands of healthy dogs,” Baird said, taking to Facebook to announce his decision to close down the industry

“The systemic deception of the public concerning the numbers of deaths and injuries of dogs. It is estimated that 180 greyhounds per year sustain catastrophic injuries during races such as skull fractures or broken backs that result in their immediate death. But the commission found that ‘Greyhound Racing NSW had adopted a policy of deliberately misreporting the extent of injuries suffered by greyhounds at racetracks’,” Baird said

“I feel much empathy for innocent trainers and those who will lose their job or hobby as a result of this. And I understand the disappointment of people who enjoy having a punt on the dogs. But we simply cannot and will not stand-by and allow the widespread and systemic mistreatment of animals.”

While Sydney’s only racetrack, at Wentworth Park, adjacent to the Sydney Fish Market, would be prime real estate for potential developers, the premier said all existing Greyhound Racing NSW assets will be used for open public space, alternative sporting facilities or other community use.

NSW is the first Australian state to ban greyhound racing in the wake of the scandal.

The Commission of Inquiry report is online here.

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