Australia’s most populous state made an embarrassing backflip on Tuesday on its plan to ban greyhound racing after sustained industry and public pressure, admitting it “got it wrong”.
New South Wales Premier Mike Baird announced in July that his government would shut down the sport from July 1 next year after a series of scandals including “live baiting” and the slaughter of tens of thousands of dogs, reports BSS.
But the controversial decision was widely seen as a knee-jerk reaction and met with a backlash from the public, with fears that regional communities reliant on the industry could be devastated. There was also widespread political, industry and media pressure to reconsider the ban.
The once popular Baird, who has seen his approval ratings plummet this year due to a number of issues, including the greyhound ban, said he had listened to feedback.
“It’s clear in hindsight, as we reflect on this, we got it wrong. I got it wrong, cabinet got it wrong, the government got it wrong,” he said in Sydney.
“I previously didn’t think the industry could change, it is clear the community wants to give them the opportunity.
“Today I can announce the greyhound industry will be given one last chance. It will be given an opportunity to reform as it needs to.”
Baird said the industry had come up with a number of reforms and the government would be “ensuring the toughest animal welfare standards and regulation are put in place”, with a new body established to regulate dog racing.
“We are not returning to the status quo. The barbaric practices we have seen have to end,” he added.
Australia has one of the world’s largest greyhound racing industries and live baiting has been banned for decades. But last year national broadcaster ABC revealed that live animals such as piglets, rabbits, and possums were used as bait to train some of the country’s most successful dogs.
Greyhounds traditionally chase an artificial hare or rabbit and the revelations sparked raids across New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland states that rocked the industry.
It prompted an inquiry by the New South Wales government that uncovered widespread live baiting and the mass killing of tens of thousands of dogs considered too slow to pay their way.
The probe also revealed systemic deception of the public about the numbers of deaths and injuries — such as skull fractures and broken backs — during races.
The New South Wales probe was one of several into greyhound racing around Australia, although no other states went as far as proposing an industry ban.