Passions flare as trainers march over greyhound ban

MORE than a thousand protesters have marched to Parliament House in Sydney against the New South Wales Government's plan to ban greyhound racing.

A petition with more than 35,000 signatures was presented to Opposition Leader Luke Foley, who told the crowd the ban was a "tyrannical measure masquerading as a humane gesture".

Yesterday was the first sitting of parliament since the winter break, and the greyhound ban was on everybody's lips.

Premier Mike Baird held up a photo of a golden retriever puppy during Question Time, ridiculing Mr Foley's claim of being a champion of animal rights.

He labelled the Labor leader a "MOP" - a "man of principle" except when a cheap political score was available.

"I can assure that when I came into this place... we had no intention to shut down the greyhound industry," Mr Baird said.

"There's no doubt that some good people have been let down by the industry.

"But live baiting was banned over 60 years ago and it continues to this day."

The premier denied the ban was a precursor to further crackdowns on other sports such as harness racing.

"Some are arguing that this is the thin edge of the wedge, and it is not," he said.

"This is on the back of a specific industry and a specific report, and that is what we are responding to."

Much has been said about several Nationals MPs' anger at the proposed ban, the lack of consultation that preceded it and the suggestion they would cross the floor and vote against the party line.

Queanbeyan MP Peter Phelps has become the first Liberal Party member to publicly speak out against the plan.

"It's just become typical, unfortunately, of both this (government) and the O'Farrell government to treat the backbenchers as a rubber stamp," he told ABC Radio.

Mr Phelps is no stranger to speaking out against his party's policy.

He resigned as Upper House whip in March so he could vote against the government's biofuels amendment bill.

Protesters at the rally raised placards saying "Who's Ernie?" - referring to the inclusion of a North American greyhound breeder named Ernie's testimony in a commissioned report into widespread cruelty within the industry.

NSW Greyhound Breeders, Owners and Trainers' Association chief executive Brenton Scott rejected the report's finding the industry was unsustainable and would inevitably collapse on itself because of dwindling popularity among gamblers and spectators.

"The ban is wrong, the information in the report is wrong and this wrong decision has far-reaching implications for the greyhound industry, the agricultural sector and the wider community," Mr Scott said.

"Any claim by the premier that our industry cannot be viable has been soundly refuted using modelling from KPMG.

"As an industry, we have changed, we are changing and we can continue to change to ensure it becomes sustainable and fulfils all its animal welfare obligations."

Meanwhile, 227 veterinarians have written an open letter to all NSW parliamentarians to support the ban.

Dr Edward Bassingthwaighte, who years ago refused to continue to euthanise healthy greyhounds, said no vet should be asked to kill a healthy dog for no good reason.

"It's simply wrong, for the dogs, but also for the vets," she said.

"Just imagine the emotional toll this takes on us. No industry that wastes the lives of so many dogs should be allowed to continue." -ARM NEWSDESK

Topics:  ban betting gambling greyhound luke foley mike baird nsw politics parliament racing tab troy grant

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