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"Barbaric": Candidate rails against greyhound track in Orange or Bathurst

February 6, 2023

By Peter Holmes

Talk of greyhound racing potentially returning to Orange has spurred the Animal Justice Party into action ahead of the March 25 NSW state election. The party believes that it has a good shot at taking an upper house seat.

After learning of the push to have a new $15 million greyhound centre of excellence and track based in Orange, we were contacted by Alison Waters, who is at the top of the ticket for the Animal Justice Party in the NSW upper house.

This is a lightly edited transcript of our interview with the Lismore-based Waters.

What is your view on greyhound racing in general? Many of us saw the 2015 Four Corners episode about elements of the industry, which led to a short-lived ban. It was very disturbing. But the industry is now under very strict guidelines.

Alison Waters: The Animal Justice Party has a policy of ending government subsidies for that industry.

We find it concerning that $100 million of taxpayer funds have gone into that industry in the last five years; we believe that money could be better spent, particularly given the GP shortages, on health and education rather than propping up a barbaric industry.

We know there were 59 deaths of greyhounds on NSW tracks last year, over 3,600 injuries. That doesn't count the over-breeding and the dogs that don't even end up on the track.

We know that there are so many dogs that rescue groups are struggling to re-home them, and a recent independent survey showed 69 percent of Australians agree we should not be putting government funds into this industry - over 50 percent said they’d like to see a ban. [See below for survey methodology.]

Regarding Orange and Bathurst, you’re saying neither should be pursuing this $15 million investment?

AW: We’re essentially saying there should be no new greyhound tracks built in NSW.

The Bathurst one is already there.

AW: Replacing one, yeah.

To clarify, even refurbishing - you're against?

AW: Correct.

What kind of intelligence, if any, are you getting about the way greyhounds are treated now in the post-Four Corners era?

AW: In terms of me personally, I don’t have any of that. I turn to organisations like the Coalition for the Protection of Greyhounds, who have more access to that type of information.

What I mostly have is anecdotal, but from people who have taken ex-racing greyhounds into their homes and have told me about how poorly socialised the animals have been, how they appear quite anxious, and they feel as if there has been some emotional and psychological impacts on those animals having been a racing dog.

We know some people are concerned about the way greyhounds respond to smaller animals because of the way they’ve been trained [to chase lures].

Greyhound owners and trainers might say that they love their dogs and treat them well. How would you respond to people who say they do look after their dogs?

AW: I suppose our concern is that the dogs are only loved and treated well when they are performing well.

The dog is like a commodity. It's not like a dog in your home that you have no expectations of. A greyhound is regarded as a source of income. We know that when a dog is injured and can no longer race they might be killed at the track or they are retired out of the industry, wherever they may end up.

Any of that positive regard is about the greyhound’s ability to earn an income for those people. It’s not unconditional love.

There would surely be owners who keep dogs that can no longer race?

AW: Certainly I have heard of people who have kept greyhounds with them, but there's a limit and they [eventually] have to re-home animals because they can't keep every greyhound that's retired from racing.

The cover of the 2021 report.

At some point there becomes a quantity of animals that one owner or trainer cannot keep in a way that we would think is ethical and responsible, so the sheer number of dogs then becomes the problem.

Using animals for human amusement has been around for many hundreds of years - from animal baiting to circuses to horse racing, the Running of the Bulls and cock fighting. Attitudes have changed over time, but do you believe there is a real appetite for ending dog and horse racing in Australia?

AW: I certainly hope so. The Animal Justice Party doesn’t support using animals in entertainment - circuses, dolphins in marine parks, horse racing, greyhound racing. The well being of the animal is not the priority in those situations.

How are you positioned in terms of taking an upper house seat on March 25?

AW: I can tell you about our two previous (upper house) MLCs, if that helps. Mark Pearson was elected in 2015 - he’s not recontesting and I’m trying to win back his spot. His primary vote was about 1.8 percent, so he got over the line with preferences.

Our MP elected in 2019, Emma Hurst, she got over the line with 1.95 percent of the primary vote, so preferences got her across the line as well. This time around we're hoping for higher primary vote.

The Greens are closest to you in ideology - is there an arrangement in place to swap preferences?

AW: We’re still formalising that at the moment.


Labor lower house candidate for Orange, Heather Dunn, said greyhound racing was a topic she didn’t know much about.

“I probably need to do a lot more research,” she told The Orange News Examiner.

“I know it’s really important to a lot of people in the area, and I can’t make a call at the moment. I don’t think we’re in a position to get rid of it, I don’t think we could just ban it tomorrow. [A ban] is definitely not something I would support, as I know it’s important to a lot of people in the region. But I don’t know enough about it.”

Sitting member, independent MP Phil Donato, is a supporter of greyhound racing, as is the National Party candidate for Orange, Tony Mileto.

“I have always supported the greyhound industry and always will do so as it provides a livelihood to many people in this region,” Mileto said.

Comment has been sought from Green candidate David Mallard.

Mileto and Mallard both sit on Orange City Council.

The Coalition for the Protection of Greyhounds said that based on stewards’ reports and Freedom of Information requests, “over 200 greyhounds were killed and more than 10,000 injured while racing in Australia [in 2021] … Similar to previous years, curved tracks were the most deadly. Almost all racing deaths were due to euthanasia for broken legs.

“Many dogs injured while racing were killed later at vet clinics. Freedom of Information requests are slowly revealing the names of these dogs. Racing industry annual reports for 2020-21 showed that almost 1,700 greyhounds died within the industry from all causes.”

The Greyhound Welfare and Integrity Commission states that when re-homing a greyhound “to a person or organisation which is not an industry participant … the relinquishing owner must, within 10 days of the greyhound leaving their care, notify the Commission by lodging a completed Retirement Notification form.

“Euthanasia: following unsuccessful attempts to re-home - where an owner of a greyhound has complied with the re-homing requirements … and the owner intends to have the greyhound euthanased, the owner must, at least 10 business days before the greyhound is to be euthanased, notify the Commission of their intention by lodging a completed Intent to Euthanase Greyhound Notification form.”

If the greyhound is euthanased following the notification period, the owner must also notify the Commission by lodging a completed Euthanasia of Greyhound by Vet Notification form.

* Survey methodology

A sample of 804 Australians aged 18 and over were selected at random, with interviews apportioned demographically and geographically, based on population data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

A combination of online and telephone surveys was utilised. This methodology provides a high level of confidence that the results are representative of the population at large.

The characteristics of the sample were:

● gender – male 49%, female 51%

● age – 18-29 years 16%, 30-39 years 16%, 40-49 years 17%, 50-64 years 24%, 65 years and above 27%

● state of residence – ACT 2%, NSW 32%, NT 1%, QLD 19%, SA 7%, Tas 2%, Vic 27%, WA 10%

● urban residence – 70%, rural residence – 30%

● online responses – 57%, phone responses – 43%.

After respondents were provided with statements and asked questions, they selected responses from a number of options to indicate their level of agreement/support. Oz Info undertook a phone survey and Dynata undertook additional online interviews of respondents across all states and territories.

You can read more about the survey and the questions asked here.

Do you support greyhound racing?

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