Rural TDs call for independent economic assessment of greyhound industry

Rather than to “close the sector down, we must focus [on] providing a more effective and efficient sector” according to the Rural Independent Group, who criticised the Social Democrats’ motion to cut state funding for the greyhound sector.

The rural TDs have described the motion as a “completely misguided publicity stunt that would hit small farmers and ordinary greyhound owners and breeders severely, while hammering the rural economy with hundreds of job losses”.

Speaking at a press conference at Leinster House today (Tuesday, November 24), the leader of the Rural Independent Group, deputy Mattie McGrath, stated:

“The greyhound industry is a crucial component for many rural parts of our country. We reject any knee-jerk attempt to close down this sector.

Rather than call for an entire industry to be abandoned, we believe the focus of attention must be in transforming the financial accountability of the entire sector, improving the independence of the Greyhound Racing Ireland board and targeting the supports to the ordinary owners and breeders of greyhounds.

“We want to see the ordinary breeders and owners represented on the board. They are best placed to drive the industry forward and bring knowledge and expertise to the table.

“The sector must conform to the highest international standards of regulation and animal welfare across all aspects, in order to enhance and protect the reputation and the financial viability of the industry.”

The deputy said that any rogue elements of the sport must be addressed without delay, and that the majority of people that run and own greyhounds “do so with integrity”.

‘Animal welfare at the heart of their enterprises’

“In fact, most of these individuals are also small farmers and place animal welfare at the heart of their enterprises,” the deputy continued.

“The sector has been harmed by rogue operators, who aim to exploit for their own gain. However, the same could be said for many other sectors also; however, the solution does not always lie in shutting down – as such a move would be akin to ending the Irish soccer team due to a string of poor results. Such a policy is completely misguided.”

The deputy feels that the last government failed to implement “strong and robust legislation to strengthen the sector”.

“While the Greyhound Racing Bill went some way to addressing the concerns of the sector, it fell far short of the 13 recommendations made by the Joint Committee on Agriculture in a 2016 report which examined the greyhound industry in Ireland in its entirety.

We believe that an up-to-date independent economic assessment of the industry, including a full breakdown of staff working in all category levels (both public and private), must be immediately undertaken in order to more accurately reflect the current state of the industry in Ireland.

“We also want to see the aforementioned report recommendations implemented in their entirety. These recommendations have the capacity to strengthen the sector, eliminate any rogue elements and improve transparency, accountability and performance.

“Such aspects, as multi-annual localised action plans detailing specific measures to maximise the commercial viability of each track, must be conducted – as this sector has enormous potential if it is operated properly with the correct procedures and oversight in place. That is why we are calling for the full implementation of all recommendations made in the 2016 report.”