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Disquiet in government as Ross calls out minister's response to greyhound controversy

Transport Minister Shane Ross told Cabinet this week that a more ‘robust’ response is need from government.

Image: Shutterstock/Irma07

TRANSPORT MINISTER SHANE Ross has called on government to say what it’s doing about the greyhound industry in wake of the recent RTÉ Prime Time Investigates programme.

It is understood Transport Minister Shane Ross raised the issue at last week’s Cabinet meeting, in which he said he was “unhappy” with the response by government to the matter. 

It is believed the minister called for a more “robust” response to the issues raised in the programme. 

As a result, a memo is to be brought to Cabinet by Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture Andrew Doyle to update ministers about the progress of sector reforms. 

The RTÉ programme claimed that the Irish greyhound industry is breeding 1,000% more puppies than it needs, leading to a cull of thousands of racing dogs every year.

A review of the industry from 2017 found that 16,000 greyhounds are born every year, and 5,987 of those are killed because they fail to make qualification times or their performance declines.

The revelations have put pressure on those who support the industry with the €16.8 million in funding from the Department of Agriculture this year being questioned.

A number of companies such as Barry’s Tea which sponsor the industry, have withdrawn their support since the airing of the programme. 

Memo to Cabinet

Following a discussion on the issue between Cabinet colleagues, it was agreed that Junior Agriculture Minister Andrew Doyle will shortly bring a memo to government outlining what action is being taken against the sector. 

Responding to exposé by RTÉ, Agriculture Minister Michael Creed said his department “will give no comfort to anybody shown in that programme who is in breach of regulations”.

“The content of the programme has been rightly commented on as being grotesquely offensive to people in the industry and to society in general, and in the context of animal welfare regulations.

“The Department is examining all those issues in the operation of knackeries which serve a very important function in the broader agrifood sector, particularly for the livestock sector in respect of fallen animals,” said the minister, adding:

“Insofar as there may be shortcomings in our own regime to deal in particular with the disposal of pets, which die for many reasons, including humane killing in veterinary practices for good reason, or fallen pets, road victims, we will consider all of that. It is somewhat reassuring that even in the programme there was evidence of department inspections.”

Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy said since the programme, she has been contacted by good people in the sector, such as trainers and breeders, who have said “they have no confidence in the Irish Greyhound Board, IGB, in the regulation of this area”. 

In terms of closing down knackeries, the minister said the department “should make haste slowly. They perform a really critical function”. 

He added: 

The programme referred to by the Deputy contained evidence of practices that are completely unacceptable from an animal welfare perspective. My Department takes any allegations of breaches of animal welfare rules very seriously and will thoroughly investigate and take the necessary enforcement and other action to deal with such offences.

Minister Doyle said the new Greyhound Racing Act which was signed into law last month will improve the governance of Bord na gCon, strengthen regulatory controls in the industry, modernise sanctions, and improve integrity within the sector.

He added that his department does not issue certificates for the export of greyhounds to China or Pakistan and no certificates have been issued for the export of greyhounds from Ireland to either of those destinations since he was appointed as Minister of State.

Doyle said the Department is engaging in a review of the licensing conditions in knackeries, with regard to the practices seen on Prime Time Investigates, adding that all allegations will be examined.

“I also understand that coursing activity on Whiddy Island will be investigated by the National Parks and Wildlife Service, National Parks and Wildlife Services, and will be pursued by the relevant authorities.

“I fully understand and empathise with the views and concerns of members of the public and their response to the contents of this programme, which undermined our deeply felt national attachment to the care and welfare of all animals.

“In recent days, Bord na gCon, the IGB, has published the first steps of its action plan to strengthen traceability, re-homing and welfare standards by improved regulation, more inspections and the use of greater resources in these areas,” he added. 

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