Tuesday, 16 April 2019
Greyhound Racing Bill 2018 [Seanad]: Report and Final Stages
I move amendment No. 1:
In page 9, between lines 17 and 18, to insert the following:“ “white list” means the annual list prepared by welfare members of the International Greyhound Forum in conjunction with Rásaíocht Con Éireann of countries which, at its sole discretion, meet minimum standards with regard to the welfare of greyhounds, and to which the licensed export of greyhounds from the State ought to be permissible.”.
I will speak to amendments Nos. 1 and 5 to 8, inclusive.
Amendment No. 1 goes back to a discussion we have had with the Minister of State across the floor on Second Stage and during other discussions about the welfare of greyhounds. In the definitions section, between lines 17 and 18 of page 9, we seek to insert:
“ “white list” means the annual list prepared by welfare members of the International Greyhound Forum in conjunction with Rásaíocht Con Éireann of countries which, at its sole discretion, meet minimum standards with regard to the welfare of greyhounds, and to which the licensed export of greyhounds from the State ought to be permissible.”.
This is the basic idea of the whitelist.
In amendment No. 5, we seek to insert in page 25, between lines 13 and 14, under the heading "List of countries to which export is permissible", a provision to the effect that the Minister would prescribe from January 2020, by regulation, a list of non-EU countries which meet minimum standards with regard to the welfare of greyhounds and that the Minister would take into account the past record of the relevant country relating to the welfare of greyhounds, the welfare of animals in that country generally, the existence in the relevant country of enforceable welfare protections, the monitoring and enforcement in the relevant country and the standards of care and management in the country.
Amendment No. 6 seeks to introduce sanctions for those who have not fulfilled the conditions set out in the preceding amendments such that it would be an offence to export, attempt to export or assist another person to export to a non-EU country which is not on the whitelist. The amendment seeks to introduce sanctions, on summary conviction, of a fine not exceeding €5,000 or a term of imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months or, on conviction on indictment, of a fine of €100,000 or imprisonment for a term not exceeding three years or both.
The Minister of State was strongly urged in the Seanad to accept the provisions of amendment No. 7. It would require the Minister to produce an annual report about the export of greyhounds, those exported from the State in the preceding calendar year, a list of every country to which they were sent and the given reasons for the export. Finally, the amendment proposes to give the Minister ministerial powers in this regard.
As the Minister of State is aware, in 2017 I introduced the Welfare of Greyhounds (Amendment) Bill, which originally sought to create a list of countries to which the export of greyhounds would be permissible. The Bill was developed in conjunction with the outstanding animal advocacy body Dogs Trust Ireland. The intention of the Bill was to put a stop to the practice of greyhounds being sold, and sold on, in secondary exporting, to countries with little or no welfare standards. That Private Members' Bill, as the Minister of State knows, is still on the clár of this House, but in the event, as the Greyhound Racing Bill has come forward first, we believe the Minister of State should now accept the principle of my Bill and place it in the heart of the Bill before us. I am not really convinced by the arguments which I think he made in the Seanad that we cannot police where greyhounds are being sold on to - in other words, secondary exporting - because we do have evidence of Irish-bred and Irish-owned dogs ending up in Macau, in China, and we have had horror stories from Pakistan and various other countries where the welfare of animals does not seem to be a priority. Given that we have this long history of greyhound racing, the cultivation and breeding of greyhounds, and that it is an important part of our national agricultural culture, we should try to create an example in this regard for the rest of Europe.
The Minister of State told me in, I think, March, "the board proposes to expand the existing code to include provisions on best practice when exporting greyhounds". I think this was his basic response to our amendments in the Seanad, which were tabled by the Senators in the Civil Engagement group. I believe Senator Ruane made the main case. I am looking at the code here and it lays down very important principles as to how dogs are kept. It refers to exercise, environmental considerations, husbandry issues and housing. Above all, it provides for freedom from hunger and thirst, freedom from discomfort, freedom from pain, injury and disease, freedom to express normal behaviour and freedom from fear and distress. These are good principles in the code, but the Minister of State has not incorporated it into this legislation. Furthermore, it is just a code. We want a statutory system whereby our dogs are protected, even with secondary legislation.
The Minister of State has told me that Bord na gCon was committed to the expansion of the code of practice in the care and welfare of greyhounds to include advice on best practice and that it would engage with and accept input from members of the greyhound forum in formulating the expanded code. The problem, however, is that we are again just talking about a code, not a statutory obligation, and that is what we need to move towards tonight. There is also no mention in the code, as I said, to exporting greyhounds or the sale of greyhounds. In a different part of its website, the IGB has a statement regarding export controls, which states "While IGB does not have a statutory remit in relation to export controls for greyhounds, we expect owners to apply the principles set out in the Code of Practice when exporting greyhounds" It then gives specific advice to owners. However, as I have already said, there is no mention of exports in the brief code, nor does it tell owners what repercussions there will be if they do not adhere to the standards that the Dáil and we, generally, as a nation of animal lovers, expect them to follow. The Minister of State will remember that in Seanad Éireann my colleague, Senator Ruane, rightly referenced Articles 34 and 35 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union. This is in reference to secondary exporting. Senator Ruane, in order to address concerns that the Minister of State might have about secondary exports, suggested that Ireland could request a derogation under Article 36 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, TFEU. Article 36 provides for exceptions to EU trade rules if there is justification on certain grounds. These certain grounds include public morality, public policy or public security; or the protection of health and life of humans, animals or plants.
As I said, and as colleagues will mention, we have heard ongoing horror stories of the mistreatment of our dogs in different countries around the world. According to the website of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, PETA, for example, a greyhound welfare charity in the United States stated there were over 15,000 reported injuries of racing greyhounds between January 2008 and April 2018. Injuries included broken legs, broken backs, head trauma and electrocution. It was a rising up against this type of treatment of dogs generally that the state of Florida, where a good part of the American greyhound racing industry was placed, closed down greyhound racing.
I ask the Minister of State again to accept these amendments, create a whitelist and let us ensure our dogs are treated properly when they are exported.
It is almost like we are resuming from Committee Stage and we did not do too well with these amendments there. We will try again this evening. These amendments in my name and the names of my colleagues, Deputies Broughan, Wallace, Clare Daly and Pringle, are made in the context of animal welfare. The reality is that we have too many examples of appalling cruelty to greyhounds, notwithstanding those greyhound owners who do look after their dogs, including those no longer of use and no longer making money. The Animal Health and Welfare Act 2013 did not address this issue for various reasons. We have an opportunity with this Bill, however, to come to grips with and address cruelty to our greyhounds.
I mentioned on Committee Stage that it is great that there is a ban on using wild animals for entertainment purposes. Why do we not have a similar ban on greyhounds being used for entertainment purposes in places such as Macau, Pakistan and China? Sadly, it was not the greyhound industry in Ireland that highlighted or tried to address these abuses. Animal welfare groups highlighted them. These groups also highlighted that there are no animal welfare guidelines or regulations in those countries, yet we still allow our greyhounds to be exported there. We have proof of the abuse and we are not talking pie in the sky about these issues. We know that a number of Irish greyhound breeders keep appearing on a Chinese database. We know copies of stud books have been uploaded showing greyhounds previously registered to race in Ireland now advertised as breeding material for China. Those are the facts and we know our greyhounds are going to those countries. Details of 41 Irish greyhounds have been uploaded to this Chinese website. Those are our greyhounds that are not wanted by their owners here anymore. Animal welfare groups in Ireland will take them in, however. These greyhounds are facing extreme cruelty in the countries to which they are being exported. I have seen some of these greyhounds when they have been brought back to Ireland. It is appalling and an appalling scandal that welfare groups in Britain are rescuing our greyhounds. They do not want to bring those greyhounds back to Ireland because of the treatment of greyhounds here. That is a scandal in itself. While the vast majority of Irish dogs go to the UK, and the trade is with the EU and covered by EU regulations, we know countries in the EU are being used as transit countries.
Let us examine amendments Nos. 1 and 5 to 8, inclusive. The common denominator is welfare. I am tired of hearing how much people love animals. When they have an opportunity to do something about animal welfare, they are not taking it. There is an opportunity to do something here this evening. If we do not take it and proceed with these amendments, we are consigning Irish greyhounds, when they are no longer of use and no longer making money, to exportation to countries where they will suffer horrifically. We are only talking about a limited number of owners but they are notorious. The majority of owners do look after their greyhounds. The reality, however, is that we are doing nothing about those greyhound owners knowingly exporting their greyhounds to countries where the dogs are going to be treated appallingly.
Another reality is that attendance at greyhound events is falling and that will impact on funding. It is likely, therefore, that we will see these exports increasing. Amendment No. 5 concerns a list of countries outside of the EU and is only aimed at ensuring that minimum standards will be met in the countries where Irish greyhounds can be exported. A number of researchers would be required to examine those countries where we know there is a lack of animal welfare. It would be very easy to put together a list showing those countries. We would just have to check and it would be obvious where there are no enforceable animal welfare protections in countries. Amendment No. 6 provides for fines and imprisonment for greyhound exporters who are convicted. They will never get to be convicted, however, unless we accept some amendments that will let us go after them and get them. It took a long time in Ireland but we are now seeing people being punished with fines and imprisonment for horrific abuse and mistreatment of animals here. We are not, however, accepting that much mistreatment is experienced by our animals in the countries where we knowingly send them. This amendment states that the abuse-----