Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees

Tuesday, 2 May 2017

Joint Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine

General Scheme of the Greyhound Industry Bill 2017: Discussion

4:00 pm

Photo of Willie PenroseWillie Penrose (Longford-Westmeath, Labour) | Oireachtas source

I thank the two groups for their interesting observations and submissions. The Irish Council Against Blood Sports seems basically to say that the industry is close to being irredeemable, particularly at an international level; that it is beyond the point of rescue and the only way forward is to effectively ban it outright. That is what I take from the witnesses' submission. It is a dangerous precedent to tar everybody with the same brush in the greyhound industry. A lot of owners and so on look after their animals with great care and it is important to make that distinction.

It is important that the legislative objectives of the greyhound industry Bill 2017 should be considered. Implicit in the Bill are the objectives of the Indecon and Morris reports and indeed those of the 2016 report brought forward from this committee, which proposed a number of measures to secure significant improvements in welfare and to deter and cut out this doping, which is rampant - there is no doubt about that. I accept what people are saying about doping in their submissions. The aim of the legislation is to effect a cradle-to-grave level of supervision and protection of animals involved in the industry. That means dealing with traceability, microchipping, dog breeding, sales of dogs, greyhound welfare, puppy farming, smuggling and breeding, which we have read about, as well as the exporting of greyhounds. This Bill is weak on the issue of exporting dogs. Both groups have raised the question and it was very fairly put. Why would we send our greyhounds to countries that have little or no animal welfare legislation? It is a very important point and was well made by both groups. It is addressed in the Welfare of Greyhounds (Amendment) Bill 2017. It would be remiss of us not to focus on the issue and incorporate elements of that Bill when we make a submission. There are detailed measures to prevent cruelty and things like that.

Head 9 in the general scheme of the Bill, which deals with an amendment to the principal Act, allows the greyhound board to use funds to enhance the welfare of greyhounds. Can any of the witnesses comment generally on the need for additional funding to improve racing greyhound welfare? What level of additional funding do they feel is necessary to ensure and secure its enhancement? How would those funds be best employed? I know the Dogs Trust and the local greyhound rescue groups - I see Ms Margaret Moran here - so I am aware of the work they do and the fundraising they must partake in to achieve their objectives.

Abandonment of greyhounds is obviously a huge issue. I know the witnesses are involved in that. Could they give us an outline of the current level of abandonment as they are aware of it? How could we deal with it in the legislation? Are there particular measures that should be included in the Bill to augment or supplement current welfare legislation?

We have about ten pieces of legislation dealing with animal welfare. Some legislation has achieved its objective but others Acts need refinement, upgrading and improvement. We have legislation in place, some of which needs upgrading, but it begs the question put by the witness as to why we should send our greyhounds to places with no animal welfare legislation. We are not in the top rankings, but if our dogs are sent to places with no regulation, it makes the case that this Bill can be significantly strengthened to achieve some of the objectives.

I would not subscribe to banning sport in any industry. Improvements can be made. We recognised the need for improvement when we prepared a report in that regard in 2016. I thank the witnesses for highlighting issues that are enlightening and of help to members in the consideration of this Bill.

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