• Mark Pearson calls out cruelty and criminality in Greyhound industry

    On the last day of parliament for 2016 Mark Pearson of the Animal Justice Party delivered an adjournment speech befitting of the greyhound industry. Widespread animal cruelty, substance abuse and misuse, money laundering, race fixing, corruption and cover ups. Below is a extract from my speech, to listen to the whole speech please watch the video above.

    I take this opportunity to inform the House that 23 different drugs that have been banned at the Olympic Games are being force fed to New South Wales greyhounds. This information is in the boxes of documents that have been provided by Greyhound Racing NSW. Greyhounds are being given cocaine, ice and amphetamines to improve their performance.

    I have read several descriptions of greyhounds running in a race, gaining a place and then collapsing, thrashing about, having fits and dying. In recent years the greyhound industry has faced numerous challenges to its tenuous grasp on any social licence it may have or its right to exist in a civil and progressive society. Some of the challenges include links to money laundering, animal cruelty, the annual slaughter of thousands of healthy dogs, the practice of live baiting, genetic loading of the greyhounds in an attempt to make them run faster and faster, which results in them having muscular skeletal problems that are bred into every greyhound in the industry. Frankensteins of greyhounds are being created like broiler meat chickens.

    Animal doping and widespread abuse of prohibited substances can now be added to the list. Since 2010, 321 investigations of misconduct by registered trainers and owners in the greyhound industry have commenced. Almost 70 per cent of those investigations relate to the use of drugs and other prohibited substances in the greyhound racing industry. In some of the cases where criminal guilt has been established, the substances used on greyhounds are illicit drugs of addiction that cause problems in families in Australia, including cocaine, morphine, crystal meth, or ice, and amphetamines and speed. Throughout the investigations 203 people have been found guilty of drug abuse and using prohibited substances in the New South Wales greyhound racing industry alone. Greyhound Racing NSW currently has 43 open inquiries and investigations where laboratories have evidence of prohibited substances being used. Cumulatively, 20 per cent of those admissions of guilt and the independent evidence of prohibited substance abuse have occurred in the New South Wales greyhound racing industry. This has become apparent after looking only at 27 per cent of the material that has become available for public scrutiny.

     

  • Mark Pearson makes formal complaint to the NSW Police regarding criminal activities in the Greyhound industry

    After a number of weeks of reading the Greyhound Racing NSW documents that were delivered to NSW Parliament under a Legislative Council Order for Papers, today I gave notice of a motion advising that I have sent a written complaint to the NSW Police about evidence of animal cruelty, illegal drug possession and administration to animals, race-fixing and money laundering. This is about more than “just a few bad apples’, this is about a systemic problem with criminality occurring throughout the whole of NSW wherever greyhound racing is taking place. l will be speaking more about this in my adjournment speech in parliament this afternoon.

    What is truly shocking is that the Labor Party, Nationals, Liberals, Christian Democrats and Shooters, Fishers & Farmers are wilfully ignoring the ugly truth of this vile industry- that the dogs are harmed, exploited and discarded with no thought about their welfare. But when the layer of animal cruelty is peeled away, we find criminal networks, substance abuse, race fixing and illegal gambling.

    It is undoubtedly clear that the animals are just like chips in a poker game, no more no less. They are a means to an end. But we will not stop in our fight for animals and in doing so we are exposing criminal underbellies that no civilised society should accept.

    NOTICE OF MOTION

    1. That this House notes that on 16 November 2016, The Hon Mark Pearson sent a letter to the NSW Police Force lodging a complaint about suspected serious criminal activities, including cruelty to animals, possession and administration of illegal substances including drugging greyhounds as well as the broader abuse of drugs within the greyhound racing industry, race-fixing and money-laundering in the greyhound racing industry.
    2. That this House notes that the complaint relates to information obtained from examination of non-privileged documents delivered to the Legislative Council on 12 October 2016 in response to the Order for Papers-Greyhound Welfare and Further Order as well as independent research resulting from reading those materials, which amongst other matters, discloses multiple instances of allegations of wrongdoing recorded and investigated Greyhound Racing NSW Inspectors.
    3. That the House encourages all members of parliament to view the privileged documents and the general public to view the non-privileged documents delivered to the Legislative Council in response to the Order for Papers-Greyhound Welfare and Further Order to see for themselves that the greyhound racing industry is riddled with criminality and animal cruelty and is beyond reform or redemption.
    4. That the House entreats the government to refrain from introducing a Bill to repeal the Greyhound Racing Prohibition Act 2016 pending the outcome of a police investigation into The Hon Mark Pearson’s complaint.

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  • Notice of Motion congratulating Virgin Australia

    REHOMING OF COMPANION ANIMALS

    (1) That this House congratulates Virgin Australia and Jetpets on entering into a partnership with companion animal rescue charities, Australian Working Dogs Rescue, RSPCA and Pet Rescue to:

    (a) provide free transport for companion animal adoptions and rehoming throughout Australia; and

    (b) assist in the relocation of surrendered greyhounds requiring rehoming as a consequence of the Greyhound Racing Prohibition Act 2016.

    (2) That this House notes that every successful rehoming of a companion animal removes a dog or cat from death row in council pounds and RSPCA shelters.

    Motion agreed to.

  • A victory for greyhounds!

    Its is final, the Greyhound Prohibition Bill 2016 presented by the Mike Baird government passed in the Legislative Assembly at 3:45 AM Wednesday 24th of August 2016. Since the announcement by Mike Baird and Troy Grant that the government would shut down the greyhound industry in response to the finding of the Commission of Inquiry Report, the industry ramped up their defence propaganda in an effort to spook the government into back down. To their credit the government did not back down, it in fact presented a measured and solid bill to Parliament for the orderly closure of the industry. Whilst their is some minor concerns, the message had to be sent-we support this governments brave, but right decision.  The future suffering of unborn greyhounds has been prevented and as we celebrate the end of this vile industry, no doubt all of us are thinking about those animals that were needlessly and brutally killed. For all those greyhounds, possums, piglets, kittens and chickens, we are sorry that you could not be saved. May we remain vigilant and committed to ending animal suffering when ever and where ever it occurs. Our immediate task now is to ensure that promises are kept and the orderly process of re-homing begins. Thank you to everyone who made this victory possible.

    The NSW Labor party, under the leadership of a seemingly cold Luke Foley on the other hand decided to make this decision their defining moment. Luke Foley and NSW Labor’s opposition to the ban is very disappointing, more so, that they have pledged to overturn the ban if elected in 2019. It seems any real interest that Labor indicated they had in animal wellbeing comes a long second in a chance to score political points. This was evident in the tactics Labor employed in both houses during the debate. In the Legislative Council, members constantly objecting and causing a division and vote at every step. In the Legislative Assembly, Labor leader Luke Foley’s marathon 3 hour speech in reply causing the final vote occurring at 3.45 in the morning.

    My second reading debate speech to the bill can be found HERE

  • Greyhound Prohibition Bill 2016 second reading debate speech

    The Animal Justice Party overwhelmingly supports the Greyhound Racing Prohibition Bill 2016. Last year I was asked to assist with developing a strategy after unfortunate evidence was gathered over several months in relation to live baiting. The training of greyhounds routinely involves a great deal of live baiting. Many trainers would arrive at a training track with various species—rabbits, possums, cats and piglets. One particular scene has haunted me ever since. It was not a one-off incident; it is systemic, it is part of the industry, it is the norm and it is integral to the industry. In broad daylight a possum, which is a nocturnal animal, was strapped to a lure. A cloth was placed over its shoulders and it was strapped down firmly by its lower legs. The only part of its body it could move was its tail. Owners paid $50 to train their dogs using that live bait.

    The lure was set off, with engines roaring, screaming and vibrating. This nocturnal animal was sped around the track. When it was stopped, the dogs were allowed to tear and rip at it. It then came back around to the start. The possum was kicked around and hit to see whether it was conscious. If it was still alive it was sent around again with other dogs. A possum that came back conscious would emit a very high-pitched squeal—as do kittens, piglets and rabbits, believe it or not, when suffering and in enormous distress. The possum to which I refer went around the track 23 times, and it was still conscious. If the owner of the dog was satisfied with the live baiting episode and the possum was still alive he could have his $50 refunded because the animal could be used for the next dog. The possum would be left there to die a long, lingering death—the police described it as torture.

    Justice McHugh subpoenaed 10 trainers to give evidence to the inquiry. Nine of them said—they could have lied but they did not—that they used live baiting to various degrees, and one refused to answer the question but certainly did not deny it. Therein lies the savagery of the greyhound industry. It is not a minority of trainers; it is not a one-off incident. Nine out of 10 trainers admitted to live baiting and that means the industry cannot save itself from itself.

    No regulator can save it from itself. The Government has rightfully decided that no government can save the industry from itself. That is why the Animal Justice Party and I personally overwhelming support the Baird Government in taking this historic, principled and ethical decision.

    The greyhound industry has a long history both here and afar. It is a history built on animal cruelty that traces the “sport” from the traditions of the elite and royalty to the “battlers’ sport” that it is portrayed as today. Its long history is important as it coincides with the dynamic shift of social and community expectation regarding our relationships with animals. It is clear that the industry has formulated its own demise, no doubt carrying innocent casualties with it of both the human and non-human kind. The industry and its core participants have ignored society’s shift regarding animals and their treatment. The shift places high expectations of those seeking to profit from animals and transcends political persuasions and socio-economic backgrounds. To pigeonhole love for animals as elitist and snobbery is an insult to working class everyday people, many of whom will take in a rescued greyhound as owners seek to dispose of them in the coming months when they no longer bring in revenue.

    It has been a widely known secret that the greyhound industry has systemic animal welfare issues. It is critical to note that those issues are systemic, not rare or in the minority. Stories of live baiting, mass graves, greyhound muscle men and over breeding have been common for a very long time. There has been a great deal of evidence about greyhound muscle men, which I will explain. When a greyhound has an injury it is very rarely taken to a vet or has a vet called for it. Instead, a decision is made to immediately breach a section of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act that says it is an offence to fail to provide veterinary treatment. A greyhound muscle man is called in. People who have been in the industry have given clear descriptions of what muscle men do. If a dog has gathered a serious injury while racing and cannot perform the muscle men will try various practices. One of them is to strap the front two legs of a dog to a high tree branch and then stretch the bottom two legs to try to rectify the injury. No analgesia or pain relief is given while the muscle men do the job. That practice is systemic in the industry.

    In my previous job I was privy to a large amount of evidence but not enough to bring about prosecutions at the level required. It was only in early 2015 that the evidence exposed in the Four Corners broadcast “Making A Killing” that I unfortunately witnessed as I assisted in obtaining that evidence for the program and the police. The exposé documented what has been spoken about a great deal today. The important thing is the program was the catalyst for the establishment of the commission of inquiry. It utilised covert video footage of the most appalling cruelty and suffering obtained by animal activists—those passionate everyday people exposing acts which the government, authorities and the industry could not or would not investigate and rectify. This is a testament to the everyday people who seek to right the wrongs of this world, which include those committed to voiceless animals beholden to our care that have suffered at the hands of callous people who knowingly committed illegal activity day in and day out.

    Thanks to the Government and the commission of inquiry led by Michael McHugh the public and the lawmakers of this State—and, indeed, across the globe—have had the truth revealed to them. I repeat that it is truth. The facts contained in the report by a conservative and esteemed former judge are not fictional or delusional. The bare facts as revealed by the McHugh report are that this industry has implicitly condoned as well as caused the unnecessary deaths of tens of thousands of healthy greyhounds, engaged in the barbaric practice of live baiting, and caused and will continue to cause injuries to greyhounds that range from minor to catastrophic. An enormous amount of catastrophic injuries will occur as a direct consequence of the genetic musculoskeletal structure of the animal as well as the race. Those things are fundamental to the industry and cannot be turned around. They are part of the industry and cannot be changed; however, they are unacceptable.

    The McHugh report also found that the industry has deceived the community concerning the extent of injuries and deaths caused during race meetings and it has failed to demonstrate that in the future it will be able to reduce the deaths of healthy greyhounds to levels the community could tolerate. I am sure many in the House will debate the finer points of the economics, jobs and the complexities that come with making such a tough but brave and just decision to shut down an industry. As a member of the Animal Justice Party I will discuss a few other aspects of this industry.

    The greyhound racing industry likes to claim that greyhounds are an ancient breed of racing dog going back to biblical days, with thousands of year of adaptation. Modern genetic testing shows differently. In fact, greyhounds are descended from herding dogs such as the St Bernard and the wolfhound, hardly known for their light frames or speed. The selection process is relatively recent, being only a few hundred years old. Breeding selection intensified with the commercialisation of the industry, placing considerable pressures on the greyhound’s musculoskeletal structure. Modern greyhounds have been bred for larger muscle mass, lower body fat and a higher overall muscle-to-bone ratio than other canine breeds. This intensive breeding selection has resulted in significant animal welfare issues for a large numbers of animals.

    Greyhounds have been shown to suffer from osteochondrosis dissecans, a genetic predisposition causing growth plate fracture in young dogs and hock joint fractures in adult dogs. Hock joint fractures are extremely common injuries experienced during racing. Injuries to the carpal and tarsal joints are also common in racing greyhounds, resulting in an increased risk of osteoarthritis and potential long-term lameness. Risk factors cited are heredity, rapid growth, anatomic conformation, trauma and dietary imbalances. Of these, heredity and conformation have been scientifically supported.

    The fact is and always will be that in order for the industry to exist greyhounds must be bred in excess to replace the dogs existing and to maintain race participation numbers. Greyhounds that do not participate in the greyhound racing industry have a life expectancy of between 12 and 15 years. For the industry’s greyhounds, the life expectancy is often far shorter. Many are put down before the age of 4½ years. That is another systemic blight on the industry. Over the past 12 years approximately 97,783 greyhounds were whelped in New South Wales. The McHugh report found, after taking into consideration a multitude of factors, that up to 68,000 of those dogs had been slaughtered simply because they were either too slow or could no longer pay their way.

    We cannot tolerate an industry that kills that many dogs because they do not make the grade. What was their fate? Appalling brutality and suffering. If they were lucky it was a bullet to the skull and a mass grave; the unlucky ones got baseball bats to the skulls and put into a crab trap and thrown into a river. In the 2014 committee inquiry into the industry evidence was also given that unwanted dogs were drowned, gassed and hung in New South Wales by Australian trainers and breeders.

    From the age of 12 months the training process commences with a “breaking-in” process—sometimes referred to as “education”. Breaking-in involves an intensive form of training during which the animal first learns to chase a lure. In many cases the lure used is a live animal termed “bait”. This widespread and rampant practice has been a criminal offence since 1979. The animal used for bait is often a terrified rabbit, possum, piglet or kitten. It also harms the welfare of those so deeply involved in an industry that has at its fundamental core systemic brutality and cruelty to animals.

    On the Four Corners program we saw—and I saw the complete video—children as young as 10 shown to be unwilling witnesses to this appalling treatment of animals. Members will recall a child being held by the hand and made stand in front of a possum upon which three greyhounds were set. The possum was torn to pieces. This is obviously common practice; how can it be welfare for those people? This bill is not only about the animal issue—dogs, possums, rabbits, piglets, cats, et cetera—but it is also about bringing people into a better way of compassionate living and children not being exposed to brutalities upon animals.

    Since 2007, despite the best efforts of volunteer-run greyhound rescue and rehoming groups across the State, Greyhound Racing NSW has only rehomed 593 greyhounds through its Greyhounds As Pets program, at a cost of $200,000 per year. That is unacceptable. Justice McHugh put it simply when he said:

    The greyhound is simply a gambling instrument, no different from a card in a poker game or a handle on a poker machine.

    This bill is a historic document and one that will end a cruel industry in an ordered manner which I support. I commend Mike Baird for his leadership in reviewing the report and evidence, and making the difficult yet right decision to introduce the bill. I strongly commend the bill to the House.

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